Thursday August 11, 2022

Mob violence

By Editorial Board
November 30, 2021

Attacks on minority groups regarding alleged blasphemous acts are becoming a common practice in Pakistan. In the latest such incident, on Sunday, a mob attacked and set on fire a police station in the Charsadda district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The mob was demanding that the authorities hand over a man the police had arrested for alleged blasphemy. When the police refused to hand over the accused, the mob comprising hundreds of people grew agitated and attacked the police station and set it on fire. Some vehicles parked at the police station also became a target of this wrath. Though the police managed to move the suspect to a safe location, this vandalism shows a disturbing trend in society in which people want to take the law in their own hands. Such mobs have used beatings and even lynching in the past. In some cases, people have even lost their lives at the hands of mobs that gather and use violence to settle the score.

All such cases must proceed in accordance with the law, and no individual or mob should consider it their prerogative to punish anyone accused without a proper trial. Such situations create even more disturbance in a society which is already suffering from increasing intolerance. In many such cases in the past the accused persons were eventually found to be mentally unstable. In Charsadda too, local police officials have confirmed to the media that the accused appeared to be mentally unwell and was unable to speak. In any case, ransacking of private or public property and attacking a police station are grave crimes and all those who indulge in such violence must face criminal cases. In any civilised society such attempts to enforce ‘mob justice’ are a relic of the past. No government worth its name can allow people to behave in this manner.

But we must highlight that this is the result of a prolonged practice by the state of Pakistan whereby such ‘mob justice’ and vandalism do not elicit proper response to forestall any such events in future. It is the responsibility of the state to offer protection to all, including people accused of criminal acts. According to reports, the Charsadda mob also staged a sit-in and blocked roads. Such sit-ins have also become an easy tool in the hands of various pressure groups. When the government surrenders to a particular group, it wittingly or unwittingly sends a signal to other groups that such means produce ‘positive’ results in their favour. The government must stand for supremacy of the law, failing which a time may not be far away when ‘mob justice’ will develop deep roots in society, if it has not already done so.