Thursday January 20, 2022

Remains of the day

December 08, 2021

The remains of Priyantha Kumara, the unfortunate Sri Lankan national to be lynched at a sports factory in Sialkot, have been dispatched back to Sri Lanka – in a rather unseemly fashion at that. In the meanwhile, in our own country, the cabinet has met on the issue and, with a degree of profound wisdom, suggested that such mob incidents should not be allowed or in any way encouraged. And in even more bizarre ‘wisdom’, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak was seen making light of the matter by saying that young men and boys sometimes indulge in such violence when in a state of passion regarding religion. It is fortunate that we have not often seen such ‘passion’ before, otherwise we would be a country of chiefly dead people killed by mobs across the land. What the cabinet has not spelled out is the root cause of the problem – the growing extremism that has been encouraged by actions such as the licence given to the TLP to function as an organisation, and the freedom given to other groups to operate in other ways. Then we have talk about talks with the TTP, and have not been told precisely what the details are – of the talks or the deal with the TLP. We will continue to face similar incidents, similar tragedies, similar murders, unless we tackle extremism and do so beginning at the school level through textbooks and through the media and mosques. The cabinet should be asking why such mob lynching in the name of religion primarily an occurrence in our own country.

It is true that one individual did do his very best to try and save the unfortunate Sri Lankan national who had come to work in Pakistan. But surely, this should be normal, rather than something that is exceptional. It is good that Adnan Malik, the heroic factory manager who tried to save his colleague is being given a civil award. But surely such humanity should lie within all of us. The fact that it does not shows how violent we have become as a society and how ready we are to accept murder of every kind. Thankfully, Pakistani clerics from various schools of thought have unanimously condemned on Tuesday the barbaric lynching of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara. They have called it un-Islamic and extrajudicial; demanding that strict legal action be taken against those responsible. In the past we have seen people being targeted on blasphemy charges which may or may not have been correct. In all such cases a fair dispensation of justice is the only legal course of action. In some cases people have been languishing in jails for years, or even decades just on accusations without any solid proof. Junaid Hafeez is a case in point whose defence lawyer Rashid Rehman was assassinated in broad daylight in Multan, but the state remained apathetic.

Right from the time of Gen Zia sectarianism and religious intolerance has increased manifold in the country. Our educational system and even many religious and political leaders have either encouraged extremism directly or have tried to play down the gravity of this menace. This culture of violence and extremism has to end. Tolerance has to be injected into our society and how this is to be achieved is the challenge the government and its representatives must answer rather than suggesting that excited young men just decide to take it into their own hands to kill.