What happened in Lahore yesterday has again put our heads to shame. A Christian was accused of insulting Holy Prophet and soon after the mob attacked the Christian colony forcing its inhabitants to flee. Under pressure from the mob, Police had to file charges against the accused man.
The communal violence is not new to Pakistan and for that matter South Asia as the history of this entire region is full of incidents. However, what makes Pakistan unique (in fact this is becoming an increasing pattern now) is the strange and in fact criminal silence and utter lack of condemnation. We do not see, major political parties organizing rallies for the condemnation of such incidences. Our “brilliant’ media does not organize talk shows on this issue and nor do the masses come on the street. The condemnation coming out is sporadic and on the political and administrative front it is merely lip serving. Instead of genuinely feeling the heat from the masses, the political government seems to be more under pressure from the negative international media spotlight.
Right now, once again a large number of populace is simply in a state of denial and even those who admit that our “brave” Muslim fellows were the culprits have an apologetic tone and keep on referring to infamous barbarism in Gujarat riots to draw parallels. The similar pattern of making use of others (whether in terms of assigning blames or making excuses) is the order of the day.
We refer to Gujrat, hold rallies to show solidarity with Indian Muslims and those in Palestine and yet are either silent or knitting non sense conspiracy theories when a similar incidence involving minorities on our soil occurs.
What happened in Gujrat was terrible but cannot be used for this apologetic defense of barbarity such as Lahore incidence or what happened in Gojra a few years ago. . Moreover, after Gujrat, BJP felt a lot of heat. I know that Modi won the elections but outside Gujrat the political star of the party took a real hit. Moreover, the issue allowed the opposition to take full advantage. Even now due to Congress blunders, Modi’s star is on the ascent but he is still put on the defensive when asked about the Gujrat riots.
This unfortunately is the difference between India and Pakistan. In Pakistan, no opposition can take political advantage of this massacre because frankly it won’t even register as an issue with the populace. This primarily is the most dangerous thing about Pakistan. The populace cannot be divided into two polar camps but merely compartmentalized into three broadly similar categories: those who support the killings; those who think it’s a grand conspiracy to defame Pakistan; and those who think that such killings though objectionable nevertheless are a common occurrence in South Asia and therefore do not merit much condemnation.
This is not a political failure alone. It is national shame and depicts weakness at every level of our society’s moral fabric.
In some quarters the anti blasphemy law is under criticism. However, the problem at least in blasphemy cases, unlike those falling under Hudood, is that the situation seldom reaches the legal stage. People often implement their own version of “justice”. One particular case which flashes in my mind is that of Hafiz Sajjad Tariq who was killed in Gujaranwala by a mob literally consisting of thousands. Hafiz Sajjad was a traditional devout Muslim and while reciting Quran accidently dropped it on the stove. Although it was pure accident but someone reported it to the nearby mosque as a deliberate act. Needless to say, the Imam did not even bother to ascertain the facts and started to agitate the nearby community to take action. Thousands turned up and fulfilled their “duty” by dragging the poor guy through the streets of the city and finally burning him alive. It was after two days that the facts of the case became fully known. Although it was shocking but the reaction to all that barbarism was even more tragic. There was hardly any agitation or debate and no political party raised that issue effectively.
Much more than the law, it is the mindset. I really don’t think that merely repealing the law will change anything. In fact law can only be repealed if there is a sufficient majority in the assembly. And that majority will only repeal it, if majority of the electorate wants it to be repealed. I really don’t think that any party has the political courage to even present the possible repealing as an agenda point in its political manifesto.
In countries like Pakistan, it is the reverence of religion ( which at times does not even have neat correspondence with actual adherence to its rituals) which is the main culprit. A law implemented in the name of religion is often impossible to repeal. People may not be following religion in their personal capacities, but fully understand its power in collective settings. All mobs who burn after a stimulus such as alleged blasphemy collectively understands that no one will be able to stop them. It is that venting out of gutter instincts by otherwise ordinary people under the guise of “respect” of religion. These sorts of mob actions cannot be lumped into the same kind as of suicide bombings as the latter is a of different kind. A suicide bomber acts out of some twisted conviction whereas such mobs act much more consciously than is often assumed. Each individual knows that religious reverence is giving his gutter like actions a cover. That is why even Police becomes a silent spectator.
Religion has been elevated to such level and in a way that any debate on it has become impossible. Consequently, as a society we are completely impotent to even condemn those who misuse religion for committing horrifying acts. This impotence is the real tragedy and is even more horrifying than the actual act.