Oh, the shock! Oh, the disgust! Oh, the outrage over the barbaric killings in Sialkot! The media, the blogosphere, facebookers have been going into hyperactive overdrive to out condemn one another over the senseless killings of the two teenage boys. Some have frothed with self-righteous anger, some have put the blame on poverty and illiteracy (a self-serving defence that ignores the violent solutions advocated in many a swanky drawing room discussion), some on the breakdown of the social contract between the state and the individual. But all seem shocked by the barbarity on display. But why are we surprised? Why the denial? Hasn’t it always been thus?
We are, and have always been, a barbaric, degenerate nation revelling in bloodlust. Our nation was forged during a bloody partition — in which up to one million people were massacred. One just has to read eyewitness accounts of the riots, the train butchery, the brutal rapes and slaughter of that period to get a feel of the heady, almost orgasmic, delight that the perpetrators of these crimes revelled in as the nation was born.
The lynching itself is nothing new. Read any report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and you will see that this is a fairly regular occurrence. Christians, Hindus, homosexuals, suspected paedophiles and robbers have been killed at the hands of mob justice. And what about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir? Were they not just killed by a more sophisticated form of mob justice?
Our culture celebrates barbarity and vengeance. Is the Sialkot killing that shocking when you consider the macho culture of the Punjab? Maula Jatt, Punjab cinema’s most famous film, is a three-hour advertorial for vigilante justice. The film celebrates revenge, honour killing and violence. It is entertainment for severely warped minds. One scene has our hero, Maula Jatt, axing off a leg and an arm and then catching the severed limb as it flew through the air in his bare hands! Another has Maula's axe ripping open a man’s guts to have the intestines fly out spectacularly. This is what passes for entertainment in our land. So don’t act surprised when the red mist from a teenage boy’s head appears on your TV screens.
Barbarity and sadism are ever present in our society. We are a nation where politicians like Senator Sardar Israrullah Zehri can openly condone the burying of women alive by declaring it part of his culture. Our religious discourse often celebrates the brutality and violence of medieval Arabia. We are a nation that laps up the bile of ‘Dr’ Aamir Liaquat as he describes Ahmadis as wajab-ul-qatal (punishable by death).
And we are a nation which collectively stands watching — like the mob in Sialkot — as those very same Ahmadis are massacred by gunmen.
A friend of a friend recently announced that he would be off to Sialkot with a bunch of tough friends to avenge the murder of the boys, unaware of the irony of what he was suggesting. He was planning to commit murder and administer vigilante justice to the very same people who had committed murder and administered their form of vigilante justice. And so the cycle goes on.
So don’t act surprised. The Sialkot murders are as Pakistani as truck art, biryani and loadshedding. This has always been an ugly reality of Pakistan and always will be. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a misnomer. Pakistan has never been a pure, peaceful Islamic state. And it never will be. Rather than drawing inspiration from the Holy Quran, our nation models itself on another book — a book in which children become savages. Pakistan is not the land of the pure — we are Lord of the Flies.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2010.