Riot in Gujranwala

Like the many other blasphemy-related incidents that have preceded this one, the details are somewhat unclear.

Editorial July 28, 2014

For one Ahmadi family, Sunday, July 27, brought deep sorrow and the unending pain of death, with three people perishing in a mob attack. Two of three who died were children after a house in Gujranwala was set alight by an angry crowd. The fire killed a 30-year-old woman, as well as an eight-month-old, and a five-year-old child, who all died of smoke suffocation. Seven others were injured and are being treated in hospital.

Like the many other blasphemy-related incidents that have preceded this one, the details are somewhat unclear. It seems that the incident was triggered by a picture allegedly placed on the social media website, Facebook, by an Ahmadi. This triggered an angry reaction from those living in the area, with local clerics playing a role in inciting passions, and what was witnessed was the kind of frenzy we have seen before in such incidents: a hunt began for the alleged blasphemer and the house of a local doctor where Ahmadis had gathered was set ablaze. There are claims of firing from within the house, but without a proper investigation, the truth is hard to ascertain. What we can say is that three people, including two small children, are dead and the ruthless persecution of a minority community continues.

The Ahmadis, on the basis of their beliefs, have faced ruthless brutality for years. Specific laws have been in place for decades that target them in various ways. Extremist groups, specifically targeting Ahmadis, have crept up, and as a result of their activities, intolerance for the community has spread, and this has happened because the state has totally failed in protecting them. This very intolerance caused the deaths in Gujranwala. For the family of the deceased and for those of the others injured, this is a huge tragedy. But the even bigger tragedy is the fading of the light for Ahmadis living in Pakistan. It is hard to know if we can restore some sense of equilibrium where so much hatred flows and from time to time ignites even over what appear to be the most minor of incidents, with the lack of police action adding to the problem.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.

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