Civil society took to the streets on Sunday to protest last week’s moves by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to place religion at the forefront of citizenry life. The declaration of faith provision appears to be aimed at bringing the Ahmadi community even further into the line of fire.Activists were right, not to mention brave, in coming out in force. For Pakistan is now a country where instead of the state intervening to safeguard the rights and very lives of its minorities — it has become an active party to the aggression. An additional concern is the nexus between individuals being forced to identify their religious beliefs and finding themselves at the heart of (often-times contrived) blasphemy rows; the consequences of which can be utterly fatal for entire communities. Already the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has reminded everyone this week of how the Punjab is doing on the blasphemy front. And it is not good. In fact, the province is home to an overwhelming 74 percent of such cases; with 11 percent occurring in Lahore. Such figures make it impossible to continue falsely linking such incidents to the so-called conservatism typically pinpointed in KP. For just as this term is used to explain away violence towards women and girls, it is never that. What the Pakistani citizenry is currently facing is an accelerated bigoted authoritarianism at the hands of a state that only seems to favour Sunni Muslim male privilege; provided it tows the establishment line.Of the 75 accused of blasphemy who have died as a result of vigilante justice in this country until 2018 — 14 have died in Lahore. High-profile victims of maleficent rumours include a sitting Governor of Punjab and one federal minister. Such incidents may well be linked to the strong presence of a politicised Barelvi clergy. While generally considered a ‘gentler’ sub-sect of Islam because of its association with Sufi saints, historically speaking, Barelvi activism has been associated with Namoos-e-Rasalat, or ‘Sanctity of Prophethood’. Thus this group is now known for ardently defending Pakistan’s blasphemy laws; frequently resorting to violence as a means of vengeful redemption.In recent years, especially since the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, firebrand Barelvi clerics such as the Tehrik-e-Labaik-Ya-Rasool’s (TLYR) Khadim Hussein Rizvi have gained tremendous influence. The extent of the latter’s power became clear during last year’s Faizabad protests. The TLYR also has its eye firmly focused on politics; having last year contested two by-elections alongside Hafiz Saeed’s Milli Muslim League. This is all too reminiscent of 1974 when the secular ruling government of the day found itself impotent before the bloody campaign by the Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam and the Jamat-i-Islami, which ended with Parliament amending the constitution to ban Ahmadis from ‘posing as Muslims’. It is therefore time for the so-called defenders of Pakistan’s democracy to either go big or go home. Meaning that they cannot have it both ways in terms of trying to moderate those who preach hate whilst at the same time strengthening the extremist narrative. For if the country continues on this dangerous path — it may as well admit the failure of the two-state solution. *Published in Daily Times, March 13th 2018.