NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 19

A cruel society

Nothing is going well in Pakistan. After every other day, some tragic incident occurs that shakes the whole nation. But, unfortunately, no action is taken to stop such incidents from occurring again. In fact, the government has failed to protect poor Pakistanis by establishing the rule of law in the country. In the absence of the rule of law and fear of justice, society has become corrupt, immoral, callous, extremist and religiously fanatic. After this degeneration and moral decay, people can now enjoy food in the presence of a body without feeling any sadness or regret.

In a tragic incident in Pattoki, around 200 guests enjoyed eating food in the presence of the body of a hawker lying in the middle of a marriage hall. According to reports, hundreds of guests enjoyed the feast in the presence of the body on the floor of the marriage hall of a hawker, who had allegedly been tortured to death by some of them. The police said: “A scuffle had occurred between the victim, Muhammad Ashraf, who was selling chips, and participants in the marriage procession at a marriage hall. The guests along with their local accomplices started beating him with sticks and fists and subjected him to torture, after which he succumbed to his injuries on the spot.”

The Punjab police spokesperson said CCTV footage and other evidence were being gleaned for an investigation and no effort would be spared to provide justice to the family of the victim. A video of the incident showed that the body was lying on the ground, partly covered with white cloth, while over two hundred people were having food. The people present at the spot appeared unmoved as a person shot the video. As the video was posted on social media, it shocked people immensely.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Hina Jilani said: “The incident was not only one of disrespect to humanity but also shameful to society where such people lived. This society has fallen so low that it has turned worse than even those of medieval ages.” She added that such an incident had not been reported earlier because society had a little bit of values left. But they have gradually eroded. “Society, instead of improving, has been deteriorating.” The prominent rights activist said a mindset being propagated in society sometimes in the name of religion and at other times of culture and tradition had eroded sensitivity of the people toward a human life. “When someone would speak against such trends and actions like killing someone, the people around you would get up and start questioning you rather than such trends,” she said.

Hina Jilani added that unfortunately the leadership that validated the voices against such trends was also missing. “We are living in a society where brutal incidents of mob lynching, violence against women, vulnerable sections of society, minorities and children are quite rampant,” she said. The HRCP chairperson said the people, who were involved in such violent and inhumane acts, knew that they were wrong but they were doing so because of stubbornness, insensitivity and a prevalent sense of impunity. The hawker was a poor man and no one would come after them if they treated him inhumanly. No one would care, she said, pointing out the mindset behind the incident.

National Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (NHRCP) member Nadeem Ashraf said such an act could only be committed by a person who had fallen to the lowest character. He said that there was a need to look into the root cause of the attitude. He pointed out that the level of insensitivity had a basis in the environment and upbringing. The rights advocate also pointed towards a trend of lynching incidents in recent years, where people took the law into their own hands. He said such incidents involved sheer lack of empathy.

The tragic and horrific incident clearly manifests that people of Pakistan have lost their trust in the judicial system. Because, instead of taking the legal route and reporting the incident to the police, the mob brutally tortured the poor vendor to death in the wedding hall. It also shows that people have become desensitised to gruesome violence.

It also reflects that social, economic, religious and political problems have increased extremism and intolerance among people who now enjoy mob lynching, which is dangerous for the stability of the country. It means mob violence, mostly associated with instances of blasphemy accusations, has spread to other areas of society. Thus, it is becoming part of the culture, which would lead the country towards anarchy.

The police have arrested 13 people on the charge of killing the victim. Keeping in view the track record of the police and law, nothing will happen to the accused persons. But the incidents of mob violence and lynching are increasing sharply. The disgraceful burning of a Sri Lankan national and mob lynching in Khanewal in the presence of the police a few months ago clearly show that mob lynching has become a culture of society. After every incident, the PM, the President, the CM and other government officials condemn the incident. But practically they are doing nothing. They should display courage and the political will to tackle the menace by introducing and implementing reforms in every walk of life. Otherwise, there will be chaos and anarchy in the country.