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April 16, 2023

The Christian community makes the most out of Easter amidst inflation and security threats

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study that sought to understand lynch mobs from a psychodynamic lens concluded that lynch mobs typically gave their members a sense of unbridled, intoxicating power; a promise of safety from the most persecutory and primitive anxieties.

This seems apt in the context of Multan where there were two incidents of mob lynching last month, spaced by only a few days.

In both cases, the lynching happened in broad daylight. The alarming incidents have raised major concerns about the citizens’ temperament and the atmosphere of the city.

On March 28, four men, allegedly robbers, entered a jewellery shop in Gulgasht Colony and opened fire when the owner and his staff resisted. A 19-year-old trader sustained a bullet wound and died on the spot.

After this, a mob of enraged traders tried to capture the four men who opened fire at them and injured two traders.

The crowd, which had surrounded the men and finally captured them, responded with barbaric brutality. Convinced that the men were robbers, the traders tied all four of them, and began beating them up. Three of the men lost their lives in the beating; one was rescued by the police.

Later, the traders and business owners took out a protest rally in the area. They complained that the police had failed at apprehending ‘criminals’ who were ‘looting’ their shops in broad daylight.

Then, on April 2, a horrifically similar incident happened on Mattital Road where three men were allegedly trying to snatch a bike. The locals chased the men and encircled them. The three men opened fire, killing a man and injuring another.

The crowd moved in on the three men and proceeded to beat them mercilessly with sticks, stones and clubs. By the time the police arrived, all three were dead.

According to Professor Dr Kamran Ishfaq, a former chairman of the Department of Sociology at Bahauddin Zakariya University, a lack of trust in the criminal justice system leads to a rise in hotheadedness, frustration and public violence.

“The widespread use of social media, particularly freeware and cross-platforms of Whatsapp, unemployment, poverty, social injustice, political instability and inflation are also some of the factors that lead to this kind of mob behaviour,” he says.

“Mob lynching and extremist motivations are closely associated,” says Prof Ishfaq. “Extremist elements often form the core of these mobs and incite the crowd,” he adds.

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Unlike past years, the Easter celebrations this year were a lot more securitised. Most processions were held within the church premises due to the precarious security situation in the province. The authorities had advised Christian community to avoid street processions. 

“Consider the lynching of Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan citizen who was living in Pakistan. He was beaten to death by a mob that was deeply influenced by an extremist group. The group incited the mob and instigated it to lynch him,” says the professor.

“The promotion of community policing is one of the best solutions to this crisis,” says Ishfaq. “The people do not trust the authorities as much. This leads to vigilantism,” he adds.

City Police Officer Mansoor-ul Haq Rana says he has devised an extensive plan to prevent such incidents from happening in the future. The plan focuses on the promotion of community policing.

“We have launched an organised mass awareness campaign to stop people from taking the law into their hands. The police have also decided to use the Dolphin Force to tackle street crime,” Rana informs The News on Sunday.

According to Rana, Friday sermons and mosques will be the focal point in the awareness drive. The imams and police would warn people against mob lynching and apprise them of its consequences.

“The campaign literature says that mass violence against a suspect is illegal. In case citizens capture someone they believe to be a robber, they need to inform the police right away,” says the official.

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“The suspects should be immediately handed over to the police so that action can be taken against them according to law. Action will also be taken against those involved in violence. Social media and other tools are being used in this campaign. Banners carrying these warnings against vigilant violence have been displayed at police stations and important places in the city to prevent mob lynching,” he says.

Safdar Nazir, a former DSP and a senior lawyer, posits that class dynamics are important when analysing crime. “Working-class people tend to commit crimes such as robbery, theft and assault. Middle-class people tend to commit crimes such as fraud and tax evasion. Upper-class people tend to commit crimes such as insider trading, high-level tax evasion and fraud,” he says.

“Working-class people rob other working people because they are the most convenient targets, whereas upper-class people embezzle from other rich people because rich people have the money,” adds Nazir.

Nazir says that family pressure may be one of the factors people start committing crimes but drug addiction is the main distinguishing factor between those who offend frequently and those who offend only occasionally.

The writer is the bureau chief of The News in Multan. He may be reached at trisign69@yahoo.com

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