No one can challenge the writ of the state; no one can take the law in their own hands. With the conviction of eighty-six activists of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) by an anti-terrorism court for a staggering fifty five years each, this message has been hammered home with force. No one in Pakistan should harbor any illusions of invincibility after this moment, regardless of where they stand on the political and religious spectrum.

This exemplary verdict was extremely necessary and the court must be commended for recognizing the gravity of the offence and the need for setting a strong precedent. TLP needed to be cut down to size; the party has been responsible for some of the most disruptive and destructive attacks on the state in the past few years – calling them protests would be underselling their intent. Furthermore, the religious group’s leader – Khadim Rizvi – has been bellicose in his incitement to violence, while his pronouncements against the state institutions have bordered on treason. Two successive governments may have buckled under the immediate pressure and sought a compromise, but the law must never forget such transgressions.

The singularity of purpose must be carried forward by the state. Over the course of its history ruling parties of Pakistan and the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) under their control have been hesitant to challenge hardline religious groups head-on, fearing a backlash from the mostly conservative population. This hesitation has been exploited time and again by any fringe group that can muster a few hundred disciplined followers. The result has been a gradual and incremental surrender of secular values to hardline conservative ones and a deterioration of the state’s writ; or at least the perception of it across the country.

Now the court and the state must ensue this verdict is carried out, and any future vandals be treated according to the standard set in this case.