It is becoming ever clearer that the nation is in the grip of a form of hysteria that is triggered by the merest mention of the word ‘blasphemy’ and can lead to almost spontaneous group formation, violence and death. This is not an isolated phenomenon localised to a specific area but is nationwide. Neither is it limited to ‘uneducated’ nor poorly-developed communities and areas, seats of learning are no less prone than anywhere else. In several of the recent instances where mobs have formed on the most tenuous of evidence against an individual the allegation has a root in the internet. Access to the internet is increasing almost exponentially as smart phones become ever cheaper and packages connecting to the net ever more affordable, including for those who are by definition poor.
For anybody that cares to look up in the internet is awash with blasphemies against every religion in the world; and pinprick local responses with the arrest of allegedly blasphemous ‘bloggers’ are a global as well as local irrelevance. Now there is another death, this time of a boy of 13 killed by falling shot during firing into the air in Lasbela district of Balochistan. The rumour had spread that a Hindu man has uttered or shared a blasphemy on the popular social media site WhatsApp, and it was enough to set fatal events in train. The mob, as recently in Chitral, besieged the police station demanding that the ‘blasphemer’ be handed over to them. The police resisted and the man was transferred to Gadani jail.
The possibility of the ‘blasphemy’ being manufactured is very real as the blasphemy card is not infrequently played where personal grievances and rivalries are involved. Religious minorities, as in this case are especially vulnerable. The rule of law is cancelled by the blasphemy curse, and anybody so accused is immediately a dead person walking if they ever attempt to re-enter society. Somebody will kill them, there is no escape. They are defenceless, prey to a debased and degraded society driven now by a perverse religiosity. And it is going to get worse. A lot worse.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2017.