Today is the seventh death anniversary of Mohammad Bouzazi, a 26 year-old vendor from Sidi Bouzid who stood up against corruption and injustice by the municipality all by himself. Bouzazi’s story is proof that one man has the power to force monarchs and dictators from power. The slap which changed Bouzazi changed the course of the Middle East’s history. Bouzazi’s refusal to be humiliated was a single step which inspired and instigated millions of people to step forward and demand change. Have we learnt our lessons in Pakistan? This past December 27, anchor after anchor and analyst after analyst raised questions about the identity of Benazir Bhutto’s killers. I could not help but wonder if they would continue to do so when a few days pass and Benazir fades from public consciousness once more. Year after year, we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with pompous ceremonies and lofty pledges. The outcome of all this is a normal life, until another horrible occurrence shakes our lives and kicks us into motion again. Fighting dictators for decades, the two-time woman prime minister had returned to Pakistan to strike at the roots of extremism and terrorism afflicting the country since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. She adopted a firm stand that ‘extremism and Pakistan cannot go together despite visible threats and attempts on her life. Who assassinated Benazir Bhutto is a secondary question. The real question is why? The former is related to one or more individuals, but the latter represents a mindset. Finding and punishing individuals is not going to do any good unless the mindset that nurtures and promotes extremism is eradicated once and for all. Benazir Bhutto, Bashir Bilour, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti are among the most remembered figures who gave their lives fighting extremism. They are eulogised by their followers every year. But there are many others who have given their lives while struggling against the extremist mindset who are seldom remembered, mourned or praised by anyone except their families and close friends It is the same mindset that brutally killed university student Mashal Khan last year, ordered the shooting of education activist Malala Yousufzai and targeted hundreds of prominent elders in the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) since the overthrow of Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Benazir Bhutto, Bashir Bilour, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and many others are perhaps the luckiest who are remembered and their struggle eulogised by their followers and well-wishers at least once in a year. But there are many others who laid their lives while struggling against the extremist mindset but are seldom remembered, mourned or praised by anyone except their families and close friends. Among them was Zarteef Khan Afridi, a school teacher in Khyber Agency, who was targeted by ‘unidentified’ attackers in December 2011. Last week, when Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was inaugurating the FATA Youth Festival to mark the return of peace in the tribal areas, I missed that man of courage who used to move from Hujra to Hujra to keep the youth away from falling prey to extremist propaganda. In fact, Zarteef had taken this responsibility upon himself since the days of anti-Soviet ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan. Farida Apriday, the 26-year-old social worker from Khyber Agency, who defied the extremists and continued working for the welfare of tribal women was shot dead by the same ‘unidentified’ killers in July 2012. Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan, the vice chancellor of Swat University, Dr Sarfaraz Naeemi and Maulana Hassan Jan are among several who were targeted by this mindset because they challenged the foundations of the extremists’ propaganda based on hatred and intolerance of others’ sect, beliefs and religion. The killing and shooting of such key individuals is a systematic effort to create a vacuum by scaring and silencing those who always need a helping hand to guide them through the dark alleys of bigotry and religious fanaticism. Imagine what happened in FATA when religious extremists targeted key tribal elders? Those who managed to survive either fled or silently submitted to the mastery of the new lot of leaders who ascended to the ranks of self-proclaimed Ameers from their erstwhile status of jobless youth, run-away students from religious seminaries, semi-graduates, truck drivers and bandits. The tribal areas, once ruled under the unwritten code of Pashtunwali and FCR came under the emirate of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In the same token, who else, among top government functionaries, dared to speak against the discriminatory laws against minorities since the assassination of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer? Did any provincial minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa challenged the militants in the past five years the way Bashir Bilour used to do while he was the senior minister? And finally, why didn’t someone from the top government or opposition parties speak against the religious zealots who occupied Faizabad for almost three weeks and ended their dharna only when the government accepted all their demands. Would Benazir Bhutto let that happen? Would the Peoples’ Party under Benazir Bhutto join hands with Dr. Tahirul Qadri? Qadri is generally believed to be guided by so-called ‘unseen’ elements, to undermine an elected government. It is unfortunate to see the PPP of Benazir Bhutto seeking favours from a party with no representation in any elected house. And here we get our answer as to why the extremists targeted Benazir Bhutto and the rest. On this anniversary, Bouazizi’s soul must be in a state of ecstasy as he stood up against injustice. His sacrifice birthed the Jasmine Revolution that culminated at the fleeing of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The souls of Benazir Bhutto and the hundreds of others who challenged the extremist and gave their lives to win a better future for others, have yet to see the reward of their sacrifice because the extremist mindset is still thriving in the streets of Pakistan. The government and its security agencies can arrest and hang as many individuals as they like. Unless they arrest the growing momentum of the extremist mindset, all will prove futile in rooting out extremism and the scourge of terrorism. The writer is senior editor with Pashto language Mashaal Radio in Prague Published in Daily Times, January 4th 2018.