Saturday June 22, 2024

Hostage to the mob

On May 25, Christian family was targeted by mob when family’s neighbours alleged they were guilty of blasphemy

By Editorial Board
May 29, 2024
Violent mob gathers outside residence of man accused of committing blasphemy Punjabs Sargodha district on May 25, 2024. — Screengrab via Geo News
Violent mob gathers outside residence of man accused of committing blasphemy Punjab's Sargodha district on May 25, 2024. — Screengrab via Geo News

Pakistan has decided to ignore the ever-evolving problem of intolerance that has been eating away the country’s social fabric. Last week, mob violence in Sargodha once again reminded authorities of their failure to protect minority communities in the country. According to reports, on Saturday (May 25), a Christian family was targeted by a mob when the family’s neighbours alleged they were guilty of blasphemy. Other members of the Christian community were also attacked. Thankfully, the situation was brought under control after the police rescued the two Christian families and thwarted the lynching attempt. The incident was dangerously similar to the Jaranwala mob attack last year that left scores of homes and buildings belonging to Christians burnt and severely damaged.

Over the years, sane voices in society have been warning the government against giving a free hand to extremist elements, but to no avail. Many experts believe that one reason for right-wing groups gaining traction is a lack of third spaces in our country where young people do not get opportunities to express their emotions. So they end up joining groups that profit off their anger and frustration against the government, the elites, the ‘system’. At the heart of this lies a dangerous cocktail of extremist thinking, political opportunism, and societal unrest. Extremist elements, emboldened by their impunity, exploit the religious sentiments of the people to further their own agendas. There are parties that then capitalize on this volatile mix, harnessing the power of religious rhetoric to incite mobs and spread chaos. Unless confronted head-on, this toxic nexus threatens to plunge Pakistan into a spiral of intolerance and extremism. The roots of such mob violence, it must be remembered, cannot just be explained away as religious zealotry. They are nourished by a culture of impunity, where perpetrators believe they can act with impunity. The failure of the state to prosecute those responsible for inciting violence only serves to embolden them further, perpetuating a cycle of impunity and injustice.

Social media has also played a big role in spreading discontent among people and fanning the flames of hatred and intolerance. Misinformation spreads like wildfire, poisoning hearts and minds, and inciting violence at the click of a button. Unless measures are taken to curb the spread of hate speech online, Pakistan risks becoming a breeding ground for extremism and radicalization.While there are a few schools that try to teach tolerance and respect for religion, most mid- and low-tier schools are also hijacked by a right-wing narrative where the principles of tolerance and respect for all are rarely respected. It is on the government to wake up before we tread this self-destructive path. While the police’s action in this incident has been quite satisfactory, we should take steps to ensure that such episodes are not repeated ever. It is imperative that Pakistan confronts this scourge of mob violence whead-on. The state must uphold rule of law, and efforts must be made to promote interfaith harmony and tolerance.