Mob rules: Finding a pattern from chaos

As mob violence increases we wonder why does a man walking on the street suddenly thinks its okay to attack another? But the real question is what was his underlying motive?

Adnan Rasool September 16, 2010
What the people of Pakistan are going through right now is unfortunate. We are faced with massive flooding across the country, terrorist attacks and growing public anger. But out of all these, the scariest by far is growing public anger. Flooding and terrorist attacks can potentially be curbed by effective planning and implementation mechanisms. Public anger on the other hand is wild, chaotic and deadly. But as they say there is a pattern even in chaos.

Public anger didn’t just suddenly pop up, it has been building for a very long time now and it just reached its tipping point in recent weeks due to a number of triggers.

How did we get here?

Firstly there was the ineffective government response to the natural disaster that put half the country underwater, then there were the politicisation of the floods and to top it all off there was inflation and a weakening economy. Suddenly anger turned crowds into mobs who wanted some sort of justice or, as it played out, simple revenge.

In such a case it doesn’t matter if something is right or wrong, as long as the mob thinks it is the right thing to do it gets done. The Sialkot incident was exactly this, the mob mentality at work. The question in this regard then changes from being a simple ‘why do people do this?’ to ‘what is driving the people to act like this?’

Give us justice - or else

The answer to this is pretty simple: the public is angry because they see social injustice, they see a lack of order in their lives and they cannot stand by any longer waiting for something to happen. Years of ineffective governance and an ever increasing divide between the rich and the poor has led us down a path where the social injustice continues to build up.

It would be naïve and foolish to imagine that public anger would not build up in such a scenario and such incidents would not happen again. Take a small example. Every year thousands of students finish college across Pakistan and join the work force, yet most of them either end up being unemployed or underemployed. Having spent tons of money on their education and seeing no probable return, this naturally causes a certain amount of frustration for these students. Now add to that the fact that most of them are future bread winners of their families, so them not finding employment not only impacts them but impacts their families.

Turning a crowd into a mob

Now just rinse and repeat this pattern all over Pakistan and imagine the amount of families and individuals who are simply frustrated because of lack of jobs. In addition to this, consider the rampant endemic culture of nepotism and favours whereby jobs are given to the ones who have enough connections even though they are not talented. Is it not obvious that people are going to get frustrated and angry with such conditions?

Without a proper outlet for this anger, the public is going to take it out whenever and wherever possible in any manner they see fit. This is the part where the crowd becomes the mob. And all this because there are not enough jobs, which is simply one of  many problems Pakistan is currently facing.

We can have as many protests as we want and we can have them anywhere we want, be it Liberty Chowk in Lahore or the Parliament House in Islamabad. But unless the core issue of social injustice is addressed, this will happen again and again. Mob mentality will prevail in volatile situations. Hence the need right now is to understand the pattern to this chaos and not just chaos itself.
Adnan Rasool Currently the Deputy Executive Director Center for Enterprise, Trade and Development, Adnan is also a political analyst working mainly on electoral politics and political campaign management. He tweets at @adnanrasool
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Whatever | 13 years ago | Reply Social injustice does not validate killing random strangers passing on the streets. Just because I was mistreated I do not have the right to mistreat others, Two rights do not make a wrong! We must do what is right even if it hurts. Even if we are failing. Why does the think tank crowd explain away behavior? Some thing are just wrong! Crimininals must be punished not psychoanalyzed
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