In Pakistan, clerics are the most safeguarded entities, so much so that any action they take is taken for granted and let go even if it goes against state security and values. Recently, the flag of the Afghan Taliban was hoisted by a Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz. The man is known for his antics and has always been acquitted by courts and appeased by governments in mysterious ways. After the Taliban flag hoisting, a case was registered by the police against the cleric, his collaborators as well as seminary students under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and different sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). However, it has been reported that the issue has been resolved through dialogue between the interior minister and Maulana Aziz. The interior minister has very conveniently said that there are many seminaries in the country and only one has issues every now and then which are resolved through dialogue so there is no problem at all. What the esteemed minister forgets is the effect this one seminary and cleric are having and what message the government is giving by using appeasement as their only policy. The minister also forgets that appeasement only leads to further deterioration.
Why is it so difficult for the government to register and pursue a case against a cleric who has openly hoisted the flag of a militant group that has seized the neighbouring country and whose faction in this country is adamant on wreaking havoc. In a video that recently surfaced on social media the cleric was seen talking to the police and saying that the policemen must leave their jobs as when the Taliban arrive in Pakistan they will destroy each and everyone who opposes them and their ideology. His statements clearly indicate that he is a hardliner who aligns with the Taliban’s ideology. Now unless the interior minister wants the Taliban to take over Pakistan as well, this threat should be neutralized.
The minister’s statement of only one seminary being problematic may give a green signal to others to join this one seminary and form a greater force which may be hard to fight against. Sheikh Rashid’s statement shows the government’s weakness and lack of concern which may lead to embarrassment for the government. Come what may, the cleric can always run away in a burka.