Sialkot tragedy cannot be defended, Pakistani Americans say

Published December 5, 2021
A man along with others carries a sign, condemning the lynching of the Sri Lankan manager of a garment factory after an attack on the factory in Sialkot, during a protest in Lahore, on Dec 4. — Reuters
A man along with others carries a sign, condemning the lynching of the Sri Lankan manager of a garment factory after an attack on the factory in Sialkot, during a protest in Lahore, on Dec 4. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: “The Sialkot tragedy will have a horrible impact on our efforts to promote Pakistan in the US Congress,” says Dr Rao Kamran Ali, who heads the Pakistani American Political Action Committee.

Wajid Hassan of the Pakistani American Congress fears that this incident will have a long-lasting effect. “Every time we go and talk about Pakistan, they will ask about the Sialkot incident.”

Agha Hasnain, a Pakistani runner who has run 135 marathons in each of the 50 US states, says that whenever he gets a chance, he talks about Pakistan after an event. “But now, it will be very difficult to do so. This is unbelievably bad news for Pakistan.”

Read: No one is responsible for lynching the Sri Lankan national in Sialkot. Absolutely no one

President PTI Washington, DC Junaid (Johnny) Bashir says he is ‘devastated.’ “We need to act now, arrest all those responsible and ensure that all of them are punished.”

Khawar Shamsul Hassan, a Pakistani American entrepreneur, agrees. “It is the perceived and real absence of law and order and accountability that emboldens the extremists to do such things,” he says.

The incident has jolted the Pakistani American community like the Peshawar school tragedy did in 2014. From Los Angeles, California, to Baltimore, Maryland, Pakistani Americans have posted hundreds of thousands of messages on social media, expressing their grief, anger and fear.

“They have turned the country into a madhouse,” says Bushra Ahmed of Baltimore. “Who will bell this insane cat?” asks Ras Siddiqui of Sacramento, California.

Mr Hassan of the Pakistani American Congress, who is from Seattle, Washington, says his group has been lobbying for Pakistan for the last eight years. “Every now and then, something happens that tarnishes the country’s image,” he says.

“This indicates that we have no tolerance for religious minorities in Pakistan. It will have a negative impact on everything, from tourism to investment,” he adds. “American lawmakers will be asking about it every time we go to discuss Pakistan with them.”

He thinks that it will also impede Pakistan’s effort to come off the FATF gray list and will be mentioned in international reports on religious intolerance as well.

Dr Khalid Abdullah of the Physicians for Social Responsibility NGO suggests “reconsidering policies and laws that encourage such violence. “Burning someone alive! No, people are not going to forget it anytime soon. We have crossed the limits of narrow-mindedness.”

Dr Ali of Pak Pac, who lives in Dallas, regrets the failure of the Pakistani state in curbing such activities. “When something so horrible happens, something that is also evidence-based, it is difficult to deal with,” he says. “TLP committed such atrocities before too. Then it made a truce. It went back to violence and made another pact with the authorities! How long will this continue?” he asks. This must stop.”

“We are so ashamed! No word can describe our feeling,” says Mr Bashir of PTI, who lives in Virginia. “Americans already have a bad image of Pakistan, and this makes it worse. The only way to deal with it is to give exemplary punishment to the perpetrators.”

Mr Hasnain, the runner from Virginia, says his daughter “showed me the news and asked: ‘What’s happening in Pakistan?’ I said those are foolish people. But she, ‘that’s not an answer. Tell me how they let this happen?’”

“Our state has backed down many times in the face of street power and that sends the wrong message. This must stop now,” says Mr. Hassan, the entrepreneur from Maryland.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2021

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