What are some of the key features of the Sialkot tragedy? Innocent young men being mauled by a mob filled with hate, and with dozens of people standing by, including the police, all doing nothing. These are not the hallmarks of a regular terror attack where in a split second dozens of lives are lost.
There is a striking parallel between the Sialkot lynching and the massacre of more than 90 Ahmadis in Lahore on May 28 this year. Those worshippers were just as innocent — and the assailants filled with just as much hatred, even a willingness to give up their lives in the process. At the same time, there are differences as well.
In Sialkot, the family of the victims came to know about the tragedy after it had happened. In Lahore, the family members kept on begging the police to intervene. At least the whole nation is — rightfully — united in mourning the Sialkot tragedy. The massacre of the Ahmadis received a mixed reaction. Some expressed sympathies while others distributed sweets at the murder of the ‘infidels’. The relatives of the Sialkot victims are allowed to express their side of the story on the media. The Ahmadis were shown a copy of an ordinance and silenced.
Why are we so brutal as a society? Could it be lack of education? Or is it lack of law and order? Is this an American conspiracy? Could RAW be behind this? Is God angry with us? Where do we go from here?
Like a heroin addict, who keeps on needing a bigger dose for the same high, the mobs on the streets of Pakistan seem to want more and more – of blood. And they cheer when they see blood. I think that gruesome incidents such as these public executions are only going to increase because intolerance in our society is so prevalent and there is no sign of it abating. In any case, such things are already happening in parts of Fata under Taliban control. Media representatives, or folks willing to make cell phone videos, will have front row seats reserved. Executing the minorities would not ‘move’ the crowd. But something like cutting the hands of a nine-year-old ‘thief’, stoning a woman in objectionable clothing, or flogging a DVD store owner would.
We may say that we want to stop this barbarism. But do we? The state is behind the draconian laws that instil prejudice in Pakistanis from an early age. The clerics continue to push for a rigid and orthodox version of religion and are quick to call others ‘kafirs’. The influential and the elite come on talk shows and do just that— talk. The masses are indoctrinated with hatred and bred on a diet of resentment and anger caused in large part by lack of governance. And those who can change something instead change their country of residence.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2010.