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Sialkot Lynching: Four decades of Digging the River of Blood

Shazia Anwer Cheema

The recent incident of lynching and then burning of a Sri Lankan engineer in Sialkot has again triggered a debate on televisions and in newspapers that this incident was unusual, horrific, and against the religious, social, and cultural norms of Pakistan. Such debate was also held after the Mashaal Khan’s lynching in Mardan. We also read and heard the same viewpoint after the lynching of two brothers in Sialkot.

Social scientists when asked to reason out such horrific incidents, answer that inequality, aggression, absentia link between crime and punishment, and growth of radicalized outfits and their virtual hold over society are some of the reasons.

A strong group of intelligentsia believes that today’s youth is sons and daughters of those who were radicalized in the late 80s and early 90s through Afghan Jihad tonic and we are harvesting what we had been sowing in past. They claim that society was strongly divided since the early 80s among who is Muslim, who is non-Muslim, who is Deoband, who is Shia who is what, and who is what not. If we give weightage to their viewpoint, then a grim situation and a pessimist society is awaiting us because behavioral sciences indicate that temperament, mood and habits, and functional disorders pass to the next generation through image schemas and become part of the cognitive system.

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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.

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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.

The process of purification started sometime back in the early 80s. When the first generation who was purified got this purification by experience and observation, the continuous practice of moral policing by the purified dried out every humane aspect of the society and snatched all the colors of this multi-cultural society. The wisdom and lessons of tolerance and acceptance taught by Islam and practiced by Baba Bullah Shah, Waris Shah, Sultan Baho, Sachal Sarmast, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Khushal Khattak, Sayyid Ali Tirmizi (Pir Baba), Jam Durrak, Shai Murid, and Taukali Mast Shah were scripted out and the grey color of self-justification and self-obsessed vigilantism was painted, in results turned the entire fabric of the society in dull gloomy and dark shades. Self-censorship clutches the brains and tarnishes the trust even for a next-door neighbor. The biggest debate of the masses was who is Muslim and who is pure Muslim? More than a dozen definitions of pure Islam were readily available. Systematically, sectarian, and inter-religious killing was not only promoted but glorified. That generation of puritan Muslims then nurtured their off-springs with the same set of ideologies. The generation we are witnessing now has been nurtured with something that is nearly impossible to unlearn because they have not learned this ideology via observation rather from the very first day of their childhood. This definition of pure Islam is deep-rooted and one of the few first image schemas a brain can acquire. Moreover, all the other image schemas are glued to that basic pro-image schemas. The lecture on interfaith harmony and lessons for peace and acceptance is alien to them.

Simple condemnation and explanations cannot replace the basic nurturing of these offsprings of our social radicalization. They have developed the phenomenon of cognative 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.

Note: Writer Shazia Anwer Cheema is a Prague-based foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media. She is a doctoral student. Researcher in semiotics and philosophy of communication at Charles University in Prague. She heads the DND Think Tank. She can be reached at her: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh Email: shaziaanwer@yahoo.com

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Central Desk
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