This December, there has been a celebratory spirit in the air, whether the cheer stems from those who celebrated Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birthday on 12 Rabiul Awwal, or those belonging to the Christian faith, in anticipation of Christmas. Contrastingly, one marginalised group in the country shares only the sentiment of fear and gloom this December, as their place of worship was besieged by attackers in Chakwal on December 12. The Ahmadi community had sent a letter request to the district coordination officer for more security amid looming fears of takeover attempts. The request should have been perused more carefully. There was a definite failure of law enforcement here for not providing the necessary protection to minorities. The authorities should have a judicious decision-making process when it comes to one angry group making threats against another group in this country; promised threats are often delivered and the situation turns bloody. And, this was no small bout of anger; it was a riled-up group of at least 1,000 attackers on the day of a religious holiday, irate that the Ahmadi group would not empty the house of worship upon their demand — so overwhelming as to cause one man to die from cardiac arrest.
The situation amounts to hate crime and inciting social unrest amongst an already vulnerable minority. It has set a dangerous precedent, or perhaps one already being followed from before as the group has faced everything from targeted attacks to desecration of cemeteries and places of worship. It is too easy to rile up a mob against minority groups to take over property or settle disputes. There exists no such thing as following a path of non-violent dispute resolution in Pakistan. Vigilante justice needs to be eradicated and our law-enforcement agencies tightened up further. The Punjab government’s nonchalant attitude towards the issue was perturbing; it tweeted only blanket face-saving statements on tolerance and non-discrimination ignoring the fact that this was significantly more than a “misunderstanding” between two groups. It was, once again, an attempt by one group to use force to oppress another group, behaviour that is routine in this country.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2016.