IN Pakistan, the feeling of déjà vu is all too familiar. We seem to be constantly moving in vicious circles, failing to learn from our many errors and, therefore, doomed to repeat them.

To most, the words Lal Masjid conjure up images of the 2007 fiasco that can be considered as the starting point of the current wave of terrorism that confronts Pakistan.

In most countries, the elements responsible for orchestrating a rebellion against the state would be behind bars, or worse. Not in Pakistan.

Take a look: Security beefed up as Lal Masjid cleric launches fresh movement in Islamabad

Here, one of the masterminds of the Lal Masjid episode — Maulvi Abdul Aziz — is apparently a free man, free to lead prayers and organise marches in the federal capital.

On Friday, he did just that, leading prayers in the Islamabad mosque and thereafter leading a procession.

The cleric announced he was kicking off a campaign for the “implementation of Sharia” in Pakistan, while he railed against “obscenity” and the “interest-based financial system”, as slogans of “jihad” were raised by his devotees.

This series of events bears an ominous resemblance to what transpired in the run-up to the 2007 confrontation, yet it is unclear why the state allowed the cleric to proceed with his plans.

This is a man whose name is present on the Fourth Schedule; he has openly threatened to unleash suicide bombers across Pakistan should he be arrested; he has spoken with great admiration about the murderous, self-styled Islamic State; he has justified the APS Peshawar atrocity by saying it was a “reaction” to the army’s actions.

All of these developments have occurred after 2007. Do such individuals not pose a direct challenge to the stated goals of the National Action Plan? Are they not the public face of the extreme militant right that seeks to remake Pakistan in its own twisted image through the use of blood and hate?

If so, then why is the state allowing them to carry on with their activities as if it were business as usual?

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2015

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