EDITORIAL: Once again, the same old story plays out in the same old way. Someone is accused of blasphemy – proof yet to be ascertained – a loudspeaker delivers the verdict, and a mob carries out the sentence; which, in this case, meant storming into a police station in Swat and burning the accused alive, along with the station and an official vehicle.

Once again, also, the media is lit up about shameful intolerance in a society where laws exist, very much in conformity with all the legal demands of sharia, to address just such cases and where everybody knows full well that the religious sensitivities exploited by extremists actually forbid just this sort of madness.

And, as always, the state can do nothing more than just watch from the side and issue the usual condemnations, just like every other time. Now, observing this trend over years and decades, it seems all we can do is wait for the next such episode and a new rerun of the same cycle – accusation, lynching, condemnation.

Yet since nothing has worked so far, which is basically because nothing has been tried before, perhaps the state will consider a few ways of dealing with recurring, related problems of blasphemy accusations, mob killings, destruction of property, etc, because it is ultimately responsible for all the loss of life, property, country’s reputation and miscarriage of the law.

Therefore, there has to be severe punishment – strictly in keeping with the penal code, of course – for anybody and everybody who took the law into their hands; from the one that called for storming the police station in this case to everyone that followed his call and, especially, those that did the killing and the burning.

There is also the need for building an overarching national narrative to inform and educate the public, especially trigger-happy preachers, about the exact tenets of religious as well as national law that such mob action violates. This is a very long process – which is why everybody has been crying hoarse about it since forever – and it will involve gathering society’s leaders, elders, intellectuals, religious scholars and all religious/ethnic representations on one platform with a very clear objective.

Different people/groups will look at this in different ways. But ultimately societies become intolerant only when their states let them. There are small pockets of radical extremists everywhere, but when they are forced to live in conformity with the law, like everybody else, nobody has a problem. This is where the Pakistani state has failed its people. It did not put its foot down with full force when the first person was mob lynched on a mere accusation, nor the second time, nor any after it. And now it is, quite naturally, simply powerless to take this bull by the horns.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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