A chilling episode of mob violence

Published November 6, 2014
Photo of the couple provided by the family - AFP
Photo of the couple provided by the family - AFP

TWO impressions stood out as yet another frenzied mob took the law into its own hands in Kot Radha Kishan, an hour’s drive from Lahore, in Kasur district.

The first impression highlights the similarities between this latest incident and previous killings by mobs in the name of religion. The second one relates to the heightened degree of cruelty which characterised the mob’s actions.

While there is as yet sketchy information about the incident, it has a chillingly familiar ring to it: an individual (in this case members of the Christian community were involved) is accused of desecrating pages of the Holy Quran; angry Muslims set about punishing those they deem guilty.

In the background, as is often the case, lurk details as to how, at the root of the violence, is a money dispute that spiralled out of control, with the minority community becoming an easy target for members of the dominant faith. But what sets this particular instance apart from other occurrences of its kind are the reports about the intensity with which this latest mob-pronounced sentence was executed.

Shama and Shahzad fell to their attackers’ frenzy on Tuesday morning, but initially, there was some confusion about exactly how they had been killed.

There was word that the couple, expecting their fourth child, had been thrown into a burning brick kiln. An attempt was made to ‘correct’ the version that they had been killed before their bodies were disposed of in the oven.

Since then, the incident has been widely taken notice of. The Punjab chief minister has ordered an inquiry, as he does frequently, without offering any guarantees or generating any hope that the guilty will be brought to justice this time round.

There have been condemnatory statements issued by various groups and individuals, including the prime minister. Once again the vulnerability of our religious minorities to the law and society is the topic of discussion.

The question being asked is: will this be the turning point so desperately required to deter Pakistanis from perpetrating violence on those who are too weak to defend themselves and who scarcely have an opportunity to explain and clarify?

The chances of that essential course correction taking place in the wake of the killing of Shama and Shahzad are not very bright — the process is long and gruelling and needs the unqualified resolve of those in government.

Over time, the mob has intensified its violence in direct proportion to the government’s laxity and helplessness.

What our politicians have failed to do so far is take notice of their own failure to fulfill a responsibility. Instead, what the rulers have done is to instruct the police to investigate a territory which the law enforcers are unequipped to handle and too scared to venture into. What is needed is leadership, not just statements, from the top.

Published in Dawn, November 6th , 2014

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