One week after the brutal lynching and burning of a Sri Lankan national in Pakistan, Pakistan and Pakistanis need to take a deep and hard look at where our society stands today and what we have become.
As an editorial in Dawn noted “the bitter truth has been staring this nation in the face for years. Religious violence spawned by allegations of blasphemy has taken on a life of its own, destroying the fabric of society slowly but surely.”
Pakistan, the editorial pointed out, has “for too long travelled down a path where elements of the state themselves rationalise religious violence, or at the very least condone it, as an appropriate response to certain ‘provocations’. To gauge how monumental any effort at reform is, one need only recall that there stands in Punjab a well-frequented shrine to the man who murdered former governor Salmaan Taseer because he believed him to be guilty of blasphemy.”
The same ruling elite and the religious lobby who condemned the murder as “inhumane and un-Islamic” have, as Dawn clarified, “been the driving force behind the blasphemy campaign across the country that has been the cause of untold misery to thousands. Some, like Junaid Hafeez — a textbook case that illustrates what happens to blasphemy accused in the criminal justice system — languish for years behind bars.”
“Does” Dawn asks “the pain and anguish of these Pakistanis not register with the civilian and military leadership, members of which have been complicit in using the issue of blasphemy to achieve political ends and thereby fanned the fires of hate? There must be no tolerance for religious violence, no averting of the eyes when some communities or individuals are targeted. None of us are safe, until all of us are safe.”