Yet another alleged blasphemy case, this time in Balochistan’s industrial town of Hub, has led to a mob wanting to act as judge, jury, and executioner.
According to reports, the police had arrested a Hindu shop owner on the complaint of some locals and registered an FIR against him.
But instead of letting the law take its course, a mob gathered outside the police station chanting slogans against the accused and demanding his custody to deliver its own justice. In the ensuing confrontation, a 12-year-old boy was killed and a constable seriously wounded when someone opened fire. FC personnel had to be called in to restore order. This is the third such incident in less than a month’s time. Last month, Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, was mercilessly lynched because of what turned out to be a false blasphemy accusation. A few days later, a crowd bayed for the blood of a mentally unstable man in a mosque for having declared himself Imam Mehdi.
Luckily for him, the mosque imam protected him until the police arrived, though the imam himself had to go into hiding to save his own life.
Since 1990 till Mashal’s murder, at least 65 blasphemy accused had lost their lives to mob fury. In almost all cases, a majority of the victims were Muslims and the accusers either had some personal score to settle with the accused or had wanted to make a property grab.
The usual modus operandi has been to inflame religious passions, more often than not by involving the local mosque, as in the case of the Christian couple burnt alive at a brick kiln near Lahore. Unfortunately, religious parties have shown least interest in preventing such horrific misuse of religion. Instead, they vehemently resist calls to institute the same punishment for a false accuser as the one for the accused to stop abuse of the law as also the fair name of the religion. As pointed out earlier in this space, it is a manmade law, and hence like other manmade things contains a flaw that needs to be rectified.
That alone though will not help. The present incident and so many previous ones show making the necessary change in the law won’t be enough to prevent mob violence. It is equally, if not more, important to better educate the people in the light of the teachings of Islam that lay immense emphasis on the sanctity of life, telling the followers “Whosoever kills a person [unjustly]… it is as though he has killed all humankind. And whosoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all humankind.”
The key responsibility for that lies with the leaders of religious parties. Sadly, they seem to see a benefit in perpetuating the existing mindset, threatening the government with dire consequences if it attempted to make any change in the blasphemy law. Things being what they are, the government and civil society, especially the media, need to play their due role in creating a better public awareness about the issue.