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Thursday, February 15, 2024

The dilemma of old style bushwhacking in Pakistan

The mob killing of a Sri Lankan is the culmination of a fire lit decades ago when a doctrinaire interpretation of Islam was allowed to thrive in a politically driven move to legitimize religious intolerance. But take a deep-searching look at it. It’s an old-style western bushwhacking that’s what it is, explains Ayaz Muhammad Khan

What happened in Sialkot gave Pakistan a seriously bad name with the world getting really worried about safety in Pakistan. Prima facie, for the western world it does look like a case of religious extremism that resulted in the lynching of a Sri Lankan national. But take a deep-searching look at it. It’s an old-style western bushwhacking that’s what it is. In the western states of the USA in the 18thcentury onwards everyone was armed and knew how to use firearms. Fights using firearms were common and people got killed but if the fight was initiated by both and both had an equal chance no punishment was given.

But sometimes cowards needed to kill someone, so they lay in wait for them and when the opportunity came, rifled the person down and escaped. It was known as bushwhacking. In Sialkot personal grudges, enmity, envy, and anger led to this bushwhacking where they used the pretext of blasphemy to kill a person. The person who was not aware of our language and when apprised of what the poster portrayed which he tore off, apologized and then was bushwhacked by a few people who wanted him dead. Sri Lanka has always stood by Pakistan and this incident left us thoroughly ashamed before the Sri Lankans. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking Pakistanis that this was not a blasphemy case that needed punishing, but it was a murder instigated by personal enmity and anger.

Read more: Hero of Sialkot makes nation proud by dedicating his award to Priyantha Kumara

Pakistan in the midst of crises

The black mark and infamy earned from this incident can of course never be wiped out and it will take a stupendous effort to restore confidence. The most worrying aspect is that incidents like this keep on happening time and again. If we take an unbiased look at the government’s actions, it can be termed appropriate. In all cases, the government has reacted by arresting the people directly or indirectly connected with any incidents like this and putting them to trial. Even then incidents like this are recurring again and again.

While a case can be made against the Government for backing down when facing armed mob action and thus giving the impression that violence pays to lead to more violence. We have already seen with Tehreek Taliban Pakistan that trying to appease extremists leads nowhere. Shahbaz Sharif is on the record when in government asks TTP to spare Punjab. But of course, they did not. History bears witness to the fact that you can never appease an extremist group whose demand keeps on increasing till they want all. So, the weakness shown by the government in imposing their writ played a role. But surely the fearlessness and devil may care attitude of giving interviews to National TV about complicity in the lynching goes much beyond that.

Let’s map out any hypothetical incidents and identify what happens. The incident happens, let’s suppose the incident in Lahore where a whole society was burnt including two churches. Pakistani masses in the overwhelming majority stand with the oppressed and reject the extremist’s action. First of all, we don’t get condemnation from all political parties. Some of them come out with very clear condemnation while some keep on putting ifs and buts offering justification. Just like Fazal Ur Rahman in the Sialkot case. That muddies the water and makes it difficult to understand clearly what happened.

The media, the government and the public must combine to ask all political parties to have a total consensus about the matter. Of course, if there is blasphemy in any way then it cannot be and should not be condoned but when the incident is identified as due to some personal grudge or benefits like in the Lahore town burning incident then everyone should be together and in one voice condemn the incident. When the political parties due to political reasons decide to keep quiet, they promote this mindset and help people in creating lawlessness.

Read more: What measures can be taken to eliminate the root cause of the Sialkot incident?

Government acts connected directly or indirectly with the incident

Groups of sympathizers usually connected with any religious groups which owns the incident or if there is no one than with political heavyweights reached the police station and starts negotiating softer first information report, use of PPC carrying lesser sentences, cajoling, importuning or threatening the police to treat the accused with kids gloves or if a party is owning the incident than give it a religious hue and arrange rose petal to be thrown at the accused. These incidents should be reported by the media and justice should be allowed to take its course.

Then begins the secondary stage of manipulation. Witnesses are threatened to simply abstain or take back their complaint. They manipulate the system in a way that the case is postponed till a satisfactory situation for the accused is obtained. When the case comes to trial, the accused gets acquitted honorably due to lack of evidence. Even if a few persons are sentenced the sentence is usually light and their prison time is really like they are living in a five-star hotel. So why would anybody feel scared?

It’s time for us to act. Pakistan can go into the FATF blacklist, and I don’t think normal unrelated even educated Pakistanis have any idea what it entails and how miserable it will be for Pakistan. This is now or never. This incident has really pushed Pakistan within the danger circle. Very serious and concrete actions can only save us now. Suggest Government mobilize the clerics and educate people not only on TV but also in Madrassahs, schools, colleges, even workplaces and mosques. Political parties work together on this issue to push the point across. TLP is asked to condemn the incident and educate its followers.

Read more: Why punishing the Sialkot culprits in not enough?

Anchors, influencers, motivators and opinion makers work diligently to change the mindset. Government publishes all past cases like this and in detail takes the public into confidence what happened with the accused and how the matter was tackled. Most vital and important when the accused are put on trial no one should go out of their way to help them and while they should have legal representation but should also get exemplary punishment if guilty.  It’s no longer an internal matter of Pakistan. All the world is watching, and any misstep here will prove detrimental for the future of Pakistan.

The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.