In yet another case of hero-worshipping in Pakistan, about 400 activists of Shabab-i-Milli were booked by police after they took out a rally in favor of the murder convict, Mumtaz Qadri. They demanded his acquittal, besides criticizing the government and judiciary.

This is starkly illustrative of the way in which an extremist mindset has taken hold in the national paradigm. A murderer has become a hero in the eyes of a particular set of people, the only people in Pakistan who are allowed the right of free speech. They have been booked under the Amplifier Act and other criminal codes. What they really should be booked under is the Anti-Terrorism Act and hate speech so that real and not token punishment is meted out.

The police taking action against his supporters, and indirectly against his ideology, is an excellent move. Enough is enough. The case against Qadri should have been an easy, open-and-shut case. The verdict should’ve been at the tips of our fingers. Fingers should have been snapped and people should have affirmed in unison. However, due to this lopsided freedom of speech that he is being provided with, a murderer has been placed on a pedestal made of misguided religious opinions and beliefs.

Politicians have been complicit and have allowed hate speech to get to this level where Qadri is publicly celebrated. Politicians, in an attempt to evade uncomfortable discussion, maintain their ‘neutrality’ on the subject. First, the PPP quite disappointingly did not come out in support of its lost hero even though it claims to hold liberal values dear to its ideals. Imran Khan, who has built the reputation of calling a spade a spade in politics keeps his lips sealed on this matter. There is no justice if the leaders of the country do not make it clear to people which side to take.

People like Sabeen Mahmood have died so that criminals like Mumtaz Qadri can live. The attack on Governor Salmaan Taseer was an attack on the state. And the state did nothing until we lost 132 children to the mindset that Qadri and his kin promote.