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Mob ‘justice’

June 18, 2017


THERE is ample evidence that the country is being sucked down a vortex where the violence is steadily escalating. There have been many cases where citizens have suffered viciousness and even death at the hands of an enraged mob. Now it would appear that society does not even draw the crucial distinction between private citizens and state representatives responsible for maintaining order. Early Thursday morning in Rawalpindi, a traffic warden tried to intercept a motorcyclist who was doing a ‘wheelie’, or the dangerous and illegal stunt of riding a bike on one wheel. In response, the pillion rider pulled out a gun and shot the warden, leaving him injured; the unregistered motorcycle sped away. A day later, a traffic police post in an adjacent area was attacked by an enraged mob wanting to seize motorcycles that had been impounded during the ongoing drive against wheelies. A crowd of some 80 people fired shots, tried to set fire to police vehicles and pelted stones at the post. Order was restored when regular police and Elite Force commandos were called in, as a result of which five attackers were rounded up.

Those involved in these attacks must face the full censure of the law. However, the root causes of such behaviour are a societal problem that requires course-correction. Mobs take the law into their own hands when there is little faith in the justice system. But as the Rawalpindi incidents show, we have now reached a point where there is scant respect for the rule of law; hence the emboldening of wrongdoers. The answer lies, on the one hand, in bringing to book all those who flout the law, especially at the top tiers of society, so that a strong signal is sent out about the sanctity of the law; on the other hand, renewed efforts to reduce weaponry on the streets must be pursued. An armed and alienated population is fast becoming a frightening reality.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2017