Descent into chaos

The Jaranwala incident is yet another stain on a country fast nose-diving into regressive attitudes

By Editorial Board
February 17, 2024
A man walks amid debris of houses torched along a street near Saint John Church in Jaranwala on the outskirts of Faisalabad on August 17, 2023, a day after an attack over blasphemy allegations. — AFP

The lifespan of a news report in Pakistan is extremely short, which is why people tend to quickly forget about horrific incidents that have occurred in the recent past. The August 16, 2023 mob violence that took place in Jaranwala is one such case that has lost the attention of most leaders.

On that day, a charged crowd had set fire to scores of homes and properties belonging to members of the Christian community in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala Town. This happened right after the caretaker government took office, presenting a huge challenge for caretaker ministers to tackle the wave of intolerance and discontent in the city. Now, almost six months later, the caretaker government of Punjab has submitted a report to the Supreme Court, which highlights the slow progress made against those responsible for the vandalism. This rightly irked Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa who has pointed out the police’s inaction and the double standard adopted by people here who raise their voices against the growing Islamophobia in the West but ignore the injustices carried out against minorities in their countries.


The Jaranwala incident is yet another stain on a country fast nose-diving into regressive attitudes. In December 2021, a Sri Lankan factory manager was beaten to death and his body set on fire after a mob took it upon to dispense what it thought was vigilante ‘justice’. That incident brought worldwide condemnations and authorities pledged to rein in the monster of intolerance and extremism. But it seems that no work has been done in this regard. Right after the Jaranwala incident, a police official blamed India, implying that the mob’s reaction was manufactured by Indian agents to give Pakistan a bad name. But this theory conveniently ignored the fact that between the Sri Lanka manager death case and the Jaranwala incident stands the case of a 35-year-old man who was lynched outside a police station in Nankana Sahib. The man became a victim of a blasphemy allegation and the charged crowd stormed the police station, freed the accused, and then killed him.

This lawlessness has taken an ugly turn. Discussions on the misuse of laws dealing with blasphemy are a ticking time bomb. The issue has also led to the murders of one high-profile politician, a lawyer, and a teacher, and the allegation has affected people from all social classes and religious backgrounds. Minority communities are already at a disadvantage in a Muslim-majority country, and such incidents add more to their problems. An independent state – regardless of its official status – should be a safe and secure space for all citizens. No group should be allowed to exercise their superiority over another. Such incidents should be a wakeup call for authorities which should come up with a cogent plan to weed out extremism from the country.