YET another episode of brutal lynching by a mob in Mardan shows how far we are from preventing vigilante mob justice, especially where accusations of blasphemy are involved. A video of the macabre incident has gone viral on social media, underscoring the lawless ways of a brutalised Pakistani society. That someone actually had the audacity to film the horrific incident is also chilling. The victim — a cleric — allegedly made blasphemous remarks at a political rally. Sensing the crowd’s anger, police personnel escorted the man to a shop nearby in an attempt to protect him. But the mob prevailed. Angry men broke into the shop and beat the cleric to death — and did not even stop there. This episode is sadly among scores of others in which men and women accused of blasphemy have been targeted, attacked and killed. Even the family members of those accused of blasphemy, as well as the lawyers protecting the latter, are not safe, and have been victims of harassment, violence and even death. They need extra protection.
It is clear that, despite strong censure of such incidents by rights organisations and activists, and notwithstanding the condemnation of the violence by other countries including those belonging to the European Union, for years now, the state has failed to prevent mob violence perpetrated in the name of religion. Politicians, lawyers and activists have lost their lives to the cause; the Supreme Court has called for the punishment of those falsely accusing others; but the threat attached to blasphemy accusations is as potent as ever. It is akin to a death sentence against the accused, and effectively means they will either be killed at the hands of an individual or a mob, or locked away in prison for years, as judges and lawyers are reluctant to take up their case. Tackling this issue requires moral courage, fortitude and political consensus — a reality that continues to elude Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2023
Dear visitor, the comments section is undergoing an overhaul and will return soon.