A moment of reckoning in Pakistan
Posted on December 6th, 2021

Courtesy Gulf  Today

Lynching

A girl along with others carries a sign, condemning the lynching of the Sri Lankan manager of a garment factory after an attack on the factory in Sialkot, during a protest in Lahore. ReutersThe lynching of Sri Lankan national, Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, a factory manager, by an enraged mob apparently provoked by blasphemy against Islam, has been a cause of anger and despair across Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan called it ‘a day of shame’, and even far-right Tehreek-Labbaik-Pakistan (TLP) had condemned the act.

The lynching was dreadful because the mob pulled out the dead body of the victim and burned it, and even took selfies with the burning body. It is being revealed that the blasphemy charge was only a pretext, and that the workers were unhappy with the manager who was strict. This could very well be the case. But it makes the issue even more dangerous. Even lynching a man other than for religious reasons remains a heinous crime. The use blasphemy as a cover for the savage deed makes it explosive. It shows that religious extremists and miscreants are unholy partners in crime.

Pakistan rulers, including the army, and the influential sections of society, have always been seriously concerned with the rise of religious extremism in the country, and how it is undermining the political foundations of the country which is based on democracy and rule of law. Detractors of Pakistan may want to spread the message that the country carved out for Muslims in the Indian sub-continent in 1947 spreads the message of fanaticism. Historians and political analysts have shown that the Islamisation project ushered in by military ruler Zia-ul-Haq from 1978 to 1988 was not what Pakistan set out to be in 1947, and time and again political parties fought for a democratic set up and constitutional rule. It is believed that Prime Minister Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf Party has flirted with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Party, but Mr Khan now in power has been compelled to deal with TLP and not give them the license to act as they like.

The rise of religious extremism is not peculiar to Pakistan, but in Pakistan political parties have sought to take advantage of religious sentiments to gain political mileage in the last quarter century and more. It has coincided with the political success of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996 and then again in 2021. The puritanical regime in Kabul has emboldened in indirect ways puritanical and fanatical elements in Pakistan. It has been a source of inspiration for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which poses a direct challenge to civilian authority in the country.

The lynching of the Lankan national has put even the religious conservatives on guard because the realization has grown that these episodes of fanatical fury give a bad image to Pakistan in the world, while also projecting religion in a bad light. Prime Minister’s representative on religious harmony and religious scholar Tahir Ashrafi said, Police experts are investigating this case from various angles, including that some factory workers played a religious card to take revenge on the manager. Human rights activist Mehnaz Rehman said, He was killed on false charges of blasphemy.”

All the people who matter in Pakistan have come round to the view that the rage of religious fanatics cannot be condoned, and that it does not contribute to social stability. It would be necessary to sustain this sense of penitence in the country to send a clear message to the extremists in the country that people will not tolerate the misuse of religion for acts of terrorism and vandalism. Pakistan has been a hapless victim of terrorism within its own territory apart from the negative image that the country is epicentre of religion-based terrorism. That is why, Pakistan is under the purview of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which keeps a watch on money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.

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