PAKISTAN is plagued by lawlessness, it is often said. This perception is perhaps most heightened when extrajudicial murders are justified, or when unruly mobs attack vulnerable individuals and communities, or when the upholders of the law themselves display brazen disregard for their profession, showering rose petals on criminals. Or when houses of justice themselves become scenes of vigilantism. On Wednesday, a man accused of committing blasphemy was shot dead by his accuser during the hearing of his case at the Peshawar Judicial Complex. According to reports, the complainant asked the accused to recite some religious verses, before drawing out a gun and shooting him on the spot. The deceased was believed to have been suffering from mental health problems. While the full details of the case are yet to be ascertained, there can be no defence for taking the law into one’s own hands, whether committed in the name of religion, honour, or any other cause. Undoubtedly, many will rush to defend or laud the killer, ignoring the high and noble teachings of the religion they claim to follow, by giving in to their baser instincts.
None of this is new. The seeds of intolerance were sowed long ago, and we have been reaping its harvest, as those who claim to act out of love only spread hatred, fear and discord through the land. In order to reverse this self-destructive trajectory, our official and unofficial leadership must not give in to apologetics, and insist on the supremacy of the law. For years, the state has failed to invest in the people’s education — an education that inculcates tolerance, a sense of community and responsibility — and it has failed to protect its own people. However, elected leadership is also a reflection of the people themselves. The cycle continues. Tyrants and bullies who use the language of victimhood are placated. At this point, perhaps all we can do is pray for this country’s future.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020