After three days of tense standoff between the Centre and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) it is all over. In more ways than one. For the Imran Khan government has done what it said it would and secured a ceasefire agreement with Khadim Rizvi and his supporters. According to initial reports, this includes two important concessions by the ruling PTI. Namely, that the latter will not object to a review petition in the Asia Bibi case. And that the former farm labourer will now be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL); effectively barring her from leaving the country. And still Team Khan is talking of success. There, of course, is much truth to this. Just that it is the TLP that has emerged from the crisis wholly victorious. The latter cried judicial blasphemy. As it incited murder and insurrection against all state institutions. Thus to enter into dialogue with an entity whose entire mandate is built on glorifying political murder as a means of avenging ‘blasphemy’ — on equal footing, much less ink a ceasefire pact — is to legitimise bloodlust. And no good can come of it. This lesson ought to have been learned a year ago when Rizvi and his cohorts went from demanding the Law minister’s head on a stick to inciting an assassination attempt on the then man at the Interior. All of which ought to have reminded the Centre that appeasement can never be a long-term substitute for effective strategy; such as collectively reforming the madrassa system to bring it into the mainstream. Instead of this ceasefire agreement, those at the political helm should have recognised that the time for restraint was through. Meaning Prime Minister Khan should have had the gumption to constitutionally empower all law enforcement agencies to do what was required to clear the streets of those who are at liberty to call for a bloodbath. Instead, it chose to capitulate to blackmail. What was prematurely welcomed as a small yet significant step towards a more pluralistic and tolerant Pakistan has now been trampled underfoot and verily destroyed. Thereby placing minority communities in a more precarious position than ever before. This is to say nothing of throwing the courageous judges of the Supreme Court (SC) as well as defence counsels firmly to the wolves that no longer bother dressing in sheep’s clothing. Or, indeed, the poor who have had their businesses looted in some of the worst cases of daylight robbery at the hands of Islam’s so-called true custodians. It appears the premier does not care that he has singlehandedly undermined the state’s writ. He should. For his government is in a perilous position; having likely lost what little parliamentary goodwill it enjoyed. And then there is the question of international confidence in the country as a safe investment destination. On both fronts, this will be incredibly hard to recover from. But the greater tragedy is that here in Naya Pakistan, the highest court in the land can acquit a Christian woman of all charges of blasphemy and this is still insufficient for her to be free. * Published in Daily Times, November 3rd 2018.