Turmoil, turmoil everywhere

On Tuesday, a young Christian couple Shama and Shahzad in Kot Radha Kishan were beaten to a pulp by hundreds of villagers and thrown into a burning kiln. Shama was accused of desecrating the Holy Quran; she was pregnant at the time. Initial investigations reveal that there was a money dispute, as is usually the case when it comes to false blasphemy charges. Kasur police has registered a case against 600 villagers. This gory incident is a grim reminder of how religion is used to justify mob violence. The Prime Minister and Punjab Chief Minister have said that the killers will be brought to justice, but one cannot hope for justice in a country where men accused of blasphemy are killed in jail by police officers themselves.

Punjab Governor Shaheed Salmaan Taseer was assassinated for defending Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of committing blasphemy who is still on death row. Such is the tragedy of Pakistan. As Dawn newspaper noted in its editorial (‘A chilling episode of mob violence’, November 6, 2014) on Shama and Shazad’s gruesome murders, “Over time, the mob has intensified its violence in direct proportion to the government’s laxity and helplessness… What our politicians have failed to do so far is take notice of their own failure to fulfil a responsibility. Instead, what the rulers have done is to instruct the police to investigate a territory which the law enforcers are unequipped to handle and too scared to venture into.”

One wonders when anyone in the corridors of power will have the guts to reopen the debate on blasphemy laws. Our rulers just take ‘notice’ of such horrific incidents but justice is hardly ever served. Pakistani society’s intolerance is growing at the speed of light but nobody seems to be in a mood to deal with these developments. On the one hand, we have mob terrorism and on the other we have organised terrorism.

Terrorist attacks are quite common in Pakistan and to be honest, a lot of us have become immune to news of such attacks in places and cities we do not inhabit. But we are reminded of how precarious the situation is when a high-profile attack takes place. On Sunday, a suicide attack took place near Wagah after the parade at the border. At least 60 people lost their lives while more than a hundred were injured after the blast. Whether it was retaliation for the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan or an attempt at derailing the normalisation of Indo-Pak relations, the fact remains that terrorists can attack any place at will. To attack a heavily guarded site with such ease raises some important questions vis-à-vis security arrangements, especially when there was intelligence that Wagah could be a potential target.

As if we do not have enough on our plate, our political system is in turmoil thanks to dharna (sit-in) politics. It is hard to see any silver lining under the circumstances, as things are bound to get worse.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


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