The date 31 October 2018. A day signalling promise and hope yet for Pakistan. For on this day the Hon’ble Supreme Court announced the much-awaited judgment in the Asia Bibi case. After almost a decade of incarceration including 8 years on death row, Asia Bibi stood acquitted. And then madness. The white in our national flag turned crimson yet again! We cannot even begin to fathom what all Asia Bibi and her family have lost in this ordeal (which is yet not over), but we know what the country has lost — it’s very soul! In the not so distant past, the Governor of Punjab and a Minister for Minorities Affairs, both champions in their own right (who stand vindicated by the judgment) had lost their lives to this continuing, unattended and(to quite a degree) nurtured madness. Will this ever stop? As soon as the judgment was announced — before it had been read and understood — a self-professed religious party, the TLP took it upon itself to express its displeasure through incendiary attacks on state institutions and by holding the entire country hostage through illegal and unlawful use of force. Religious fanaticism and intolerance are by far the most pressing issues facing us as a nation. We are in freefall and confounded with an existential crisis with no end nor resolution in sight This wasn’t the first time the TLP had resorted to such measures. It’s (unfortunate) success the last time (Faizabad Interchange Sit-In) had emboldened it for an encore — were we surprised, no — were we nevertheless speared, hell no! The measures (not) taken. Unlike Parliamentarians who are readily and regularly hauled up by the Hon’ble Supreme Court for contempt vide Suo Moto Case(s), it would appear that the leadership of the TLP is a protected class and totally immune from such action. Perhaps Parliamentarians are children of a lesser God. At the same time, the other institution also called out by the leadership of the TLP decided discretion is the better part of valour and preferred to avoid this tsunami altogether, apart from issuing a few sound bites. In sum, if the two most powerful institutions in the country are giving the TLP a free pass and thereby reaffirming that the course adopted by the TLP is the only way to get your way without any accountability whatsoever; what message and what future, if any, is in store for Pakistan? As for the incumbent government’s capitulation on the matter, the less said the better. The address by the Prime Minister turned out to be nothing but ‘a tale full of sound and fury — signifying nothing’ and the so-called Agreement reached between the Government and the TLP, if anything, is further proof of it. The moniker ‘Naya’ Pakistan has never sounded more hollow. Given there were no legal repercussions for the TLP and its foul-mouthed leadership regarding the earlier Faizabad Interchange Sit-In and with what appears to be a repeat let off at present, the message to the public is loud and clear — TLP in essence is untouchable and clearly above the law. These deeply disturbing concerns aside, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, despite rendering one of the most important decisions of our times which has been penned with great care and meticulousness has, however, not addressed the larger issue of ‘deterrence’ in such-like matters. Merely exonerating the accused is not enough especially when the Hon’ble Court had categorically held the complainant and cohorts responsible for orchestrating the entire matter for ulterior motives. A recommendation, direction or even a mere reference in passing should have been made for criminal proceedings to be initiated against them for the grievous wrong committed against this hapless woman as well as the immense disservice perpetrated upon our religion. Something for posterity. Lastly, the Hon’ble Court has declared scarcity of water as the biggest issue facing Pakistan with our very survival contingent upon its urgent and immediate redressal. I must respectfully disagree. Religious fanaticism and intolerance are by far the most pressing issues facing us as a nation. We are in freefall and confounded with an existential crisis with no end nor resolution insight. Is anyone listening? The author is a citizen of Pakistan Published in Daily Times, November 9th 2018.