DND Thought Centre Report
Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned another religious lynching that took place in Pakistan and this time it was Mian Channu, a small town of Khanewal District of Punjab.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in his Twitter message said:
“We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands & mob lynchings will be dealt with the full severity of the law. Have asked Punjab IG for a report on action taken against perpetrators of the lynching in Mian Channu & against the police who failed in their duty”.
Religiously incited lynching is on rising in Pakistan but no serious steps have been taken by the government to control this mob justice and vigilantism.
On December 4, 2021, after the Sialkot lynching incident Prime Minister Pakistan Imran Khan through his Twitter message said:
The horrific vigilante attack on a factory in Sialkot and the burning alive of a Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. He said that he would oversee the investigations and stated that there would be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with the full severity of the law.
Did he oversee the investigations? If yes, what was the outcome of it?
An article published on December 4, 2021, titled “Lynching in Sialkot is a continuation of the history of vigilantism in Pakistan” explained the history of vigilante lynching in Pakistan. The article says:
Since the early 80s, vigilantism is a dreadful reality in Pakistan. Since then A Jamaat or B Jamaat had been performing vigilantism. Since 1988, I had been covering or reporting attacks on annual functions of universities and colleges by vigilantes to snub immoral activities like the use of music, etc. Attacks on cultural events, attacks on painting and photo exhibitions, attacks on Mena Bazaars, and other cultural activities had been a new normal since the early 80s.
During the 90s media had been under attack by vigilante groups as “collaborators” of people following immoral lives because media had been trying to document and report such vigilantism. Even media had been under attack for using the word/diction “vigilantism” for illegal policing because vigilantes were of the view that this diction has (had) negative connotation and denotation therefore, it must not be used for those (vigilantes) who had been working for cleaning the society from ills.
Vigilantes were called dedicated people who wanted to clean society from evils. Such groups had been telling youth what to wear and what to do and what not to do. A long history of subjugation of society by vigilantism in Pakistan is yet to be documented but it is a reality and had been a reality that vigilantes have been glorified as heroes and flag bearers of “good” against the “evil”. Several murders had been committed by vigilantes in educational institutions of Pakistan since the early 80s but they had never been punished rather glorified for their contribution towards social morality.
The last three decades of the 20th century in Pakistan would be remembered as drastic changes that took place in the cultural, social, academic, and art scenes of Pakistan. This was the time when even symbolism in poetry was under the control of vigilantes and poets had been directed by the vigilantes what symbol they could use for poetry and what symbolic diction was against cultural and social norms of the society and this all exercise was done by vigilantes and backed by the state power.
We know that vigilantism is the act of enforcement, investigation, or punishment of perceived offenses without legal authority and a vigilante is a practitioner of vigilantism. In Pakistan vigilantism slowly but surely engulfed everything around and became so powerful that state decisions had been dictated by vigilante groups by the end of the 20th century. The first two decades of the 21st century in Pakistan would be remembered for a knuckle fight between the state and vigilantism in the form of war against terrorism when the State tried to reclaim its power from vigilantes and this battle is still going on. During the last decade, State successfully reclaimed some of the lost lands but vigilantism is not on the run rather trying to regain ground with a mix of tactical withdrawal and negotiating mode.
The rise of vigilantism during the year 2021 is an unfortunate reality. Less than six days before the horrific incident of Sialkot, a mob in Charsadda attacked a police station to target a man accused of blasphemy who was mentally challenged (insane). The trend of attacking minority-owned properties is also on the rise while the scenes of burnt shops and vehicles during the pitched fight between Punjab Police and a religious outfit cost several lives in Lahore recently including three policemen.
Social scientists can give a long list of reasons for the apparent failure of clamping extremism in Pakistan including flaws in the judicial process, polarization in society, weak narrative against terrorism, political negotiations with vigilante’s groups but for me the required imperative role of the State is needed that must not be “need-based” (taking actions only against projected and important cases). The 70 plus years of our national identity, 40 years we have already spent in making and breaking vigilante groups and cleaning radicalism with our blood. Is it not enough now?
Another article published on December 6, 20201 titled “Sialkot Lynching: Four decades of Digging the River of Blood” gave the chronology of some of the important cases of lynching in Pakistan. The article indicates that:
Figuring out the reason for the trend of faith-based or rage-based lynching needs a detailed in-depth sectoral study but one of the apparent reasons is lack of fear of law, norms, and State among population and absence of punishment. Statements coming from the State that we will not allow, we will give exemplary punishment, we will deal with iron hands etc and in reality, no action against culprits eventually fades out fear of the State among masses. Let’s have a look into some of the known cases of mob justice and lynching and the fate of these cases.
In July 1993 one young boy Niamat Masih was lynched to death by a mob in Faisalabad. At that time there were no smartphones so neither his video was recorded nor went viral on social media.
The next day, the State of Pakistan called this incident unfortunate and order an inquiry into the incident. No culprit was ever convicted in this case.
In 1995 one Master Farooq Aslam was lynched to death in Gujranwala and his body was dragged by a mob into the streets and was about to be set on fire but left at an intersection with burning tires.
The next day, the State of Pakistan called this incident unfortunate and order an inquiry. No culprit was ever convicted for murder.
On August 15, 2010, two brothers Mughees and Muneeb were lynched by a mob while police officers were watching the scene and people were making videos of the incident. Both were labeled as dacoits and victims of mob justice. Their dead bodies were dragged through the streets and then hanged against a water tank.
The next day, the State of Pakistan called this incident unfortunate and said that the “Sialkot incident” had tarnished the image of Pakistan. The footage of the mob beating to death two boys with police and other people watching as bystanders was an insult to Pakistani society. Some of the culprits were convicted but the majority of them got free either during an investigation or by the court verdict.
On 13 April 2017, a 23-year-old Mashaal Khan who was a student of MA Mass Communication studying at Mardan university was lynched to death. Police did not interfere when a mob was performing “justice” though the police were present at the scene. Video of mob justice was almost provided a live performance on social media platforms.
The same day, the State of Pakistan called this incident unfortunate and said that the “Mardan incident” had tarnished the image of Pakistan. The footage of the mob beating to death with police and other people watching as bystanders was an insult to Pakistani society.
Out of 100 plus culprits, 70 plus came out of the case during an investigation or by the court verdict. No one has been hanged yet as the court order and the case is still in process. Only one accused is awaiting his death or life sentence while all others who were in 100 plus got released. Did only one man kill Mashaal? while footage showed 100 plus involved in the barbaric rituals.
On December 4, 2021, a Sri Lanka engineer working in a factory in Sialkot Priyantha Diyawadana was lynched to death by a mob and his body was burnt. Police did not arrive at the incident although was informed when the beating of Priyantha Diyawadana was started by factory workers. All scenes were captured on camera and went viral on social media.
The same day, the State of Pakistan called this incident unfortunate and said that the “Sialkot incident” had tarnished the image of Pakistan. The footage of the mob beating to death and people watching as bystanders was an insult to Pakistani society.
Simple condemnation and explanations cannot replace the basic nurturing of these offspring of our social radicalization. They have developed the phenomenon of cognitive dissonances thus unable to perceive any logical argument contradictory to their acquired knowledge.
Let sit together and mourn the political idea of that first self-obsessed narcissist who uses religion as a lethal weapon to destroy the land of saints and Sufis.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.