IN societies where the law and order machinery is perceived to have broken down, where people live in crime-ridden cities seething with the frustrations of daily life, the result can be a tinderbox that needs little to set it alight. Pent-up rage can find an outlet in mob justice which, at least for a short while, dissipates a people’s feeling of impotence by allowing them to play judge, jury and executioner. An incident in Karachi a few days ago is a recent example of such vigilantism. According to news reports, three robbers killed two people in a botched robbery attempt in the Landhi area, and were set upon by a crowd that had gathered at the crime scene. One of the robbers was shot dead, another was thrashed by the mob, while the third managed to escape. The police themselves were not spared when they arrived at the scene and tried to rescue the injured robber from the enraged mob.

Mob justice has become distressingly frequent in this country. Often the trigger is an allegation of ‘blasphemy’, such as when a man accused of desecrating the Holy Quran was beaten and burned alive by a crowd in Dadu, Sindh late last year. Sometimes, as in the latest instance in Karachi, an allegation of ordinary criminality is the catalyst. In either case, mob violence offers a glimpse into the soul of a society and the demons that lurk within. Buffeted as we are by militancy and an increasingly strident public discourse, it is perhaps little wonder that this society has become so brutalised. It is all the more reason that those who participate in such attacks be punished. Taking the law into one’s hands is never the answer.

Opinion

Editorial

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