The unfortunate incident of Joseph Colony wherein over 100 Christian homes, shops and stores were vandalised and burnt by an unruly crowd after an individual was accused of committing blasphemy, reflected the extent of religious intolerances in our society. The incident has brought collective dishonor and shame to the nation, which already reels under violent episodes occurring from incidents of religious intolerances. The Punjab Police admitted before the Supreme Court on a suo moto notice that the concerned station house officer of the police registered the blasphemy case against the accused Christian man as he succumbed to the pressure of a building crowd around the police station. The complainant did not even mention any derogatory remark in his application that could be construed as a blasphemy committed against the person of Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW).
The fact that the situation was allowed to develop into a nightmarish violence against the minority Christian community through several days of incitement campaigns, speaks of the criminal negligence of the police and the provincial government machinery that failed completely to analyse the gathering storm and devastating reactions to blasphemous acts committed by an individual or a group of people. There is another angle coming to light that might have led to the destruction of Joseph Colony. The residents of the area relate the attack on the colony with tales of land mafia interested in occupying the land for industrial purposes.
The nation got united against the reprehensive act and called for immediate investigations into the incident and demanded arrests of the perpetrators of this heinous crime. The clerics, religious scholars and other religious organizations also condemned the incident. The much too often cases of religious intolerance demand of our clerics and scholars to come forward and play their due role for creating religious harmony in the country and spread messages that Islam calls for peace and mutual co-existence of all sects and communities. They must issue Fatwas emphasizing religious tolerance and religious harmony as an essential ingredient of our religion, Islam. They must also call for restraint from violent reactions to blasphemous acts till the time they are substantiated with solid proofs and let the law enforcement agencies handle the case as per law of the land. The effort of the religious scholars and clerics must be supported by the media in Pakistan. Our national polity has an important role to play too in streamlining ethical malpractices and stemming of the ever growing religious fanaticism in the country.
The Constitution provides complete protection to the minorities and grants equal rights. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure protection of life, property and the rights of minorities as equal citizens of Pakistan. All those who incite and perpetrate violence against vulnerable groups of communities must be pinpointed and arrested. As the country gets prepared for the up-coming general elections, the state and more so the caretaker government in Punjab must prioritize arresting and revealing identities of the perpetrators of the Joseph Colony mayhem and bring them to justice. It will be very unfortunate if this is not done because it is necessary to stem the national slide further into an ultimate religion based chaos.