The brutal lynching and burning of a Sri Lankan in Sialkot over allegations of blasphemy shows once again how far Pakistan is from becoming a ‘normal’ state by any measure despite what Prime Minister Imran Khan, his advisors, and the Pakistani military establishment says.
As veteran columnist and editor Raza Rumi recently wrote the lynching “is a continuation of violence in the name of religion that Pakistani state and society have accepted as normal. The remarkably widespread tolerance for heinous crimes and persecution is a result of decades-old policies that have invoked Pakistan and its Muslim majority as guardians of Islamic faith. Every successive regime has competed for that exalted position as the defender of Ummah and Shariah and today we find ourselves in a fix. Even if the ruling classes wish to reverse the historical trends, they will face a hostile public opinion.”
As Rumi notes, “The TLP story is now well-known in Pakistan, and it is a group that seems destined to rise and gain more clout. The efforts to sanction it have failed and with each ‘agreement’ with the state their power has increased. In fact, the group has not been punished for killing policemen and causing damage to public and private property. The political (re)mobilization of the Barelvi majority has opened a new chapter in the polity. Sialkot is just a snippet of what will come next.”
Rumi points out “Our Aitchison-Oxford educated prime minister and his loyalists in the cabinet were direct beneficiaries of the blasphemy baiting in 2017-2018. They were ardent supporters of TLP not too long ago. In fact, the PM is on record saying that he shares the same mission and to give him due credit for the rare adherence to his utterance he has taken numerous steps to fan religious sentiments from holding grandiose celebrations on Prophet (SAW)’s birth anniversary and creating new religious forums such as a religious authority to counter Islamophobia, among others.”
Further, “More insidiously, the PM and his team of mavericks have introduced a new national curriculum which has expanded the scope of religious education in public schools at a very young age. Instead of reforming the madrassas or fixing the long-standing issues with public sector schools, the latter are likely to employ more madrassa graduates as teachers. Magistrates are raiding schools to check if Holy Quran is being taught to primary school students. Even the positive aspects of single national curriculum have been overshadowed by the regressive return to more brainwashing as faith-based narratives and nationalism are symbiotic in Pakistan.”
Finally Rumi pointed out “That a Sri Lankan national had chosen to work in Pakistan should have been a matter of pride and gratification for in many parts of the world there is a perception that the country is unsafe for travel or work. I personally know many professionals and travellers who have shared their concerns before travelling to the land of the pure.”