You ViewsVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 40

Extremist reactions

The disturbing incident that unfolded recently in Jaranwala near Faisalabad has drawn global attention to the grave consequences of misplaced fervour. The incident involved an enraged mob that vandalised churches, attacked Christian homes, and created an atmosphere of terror. The events, condemnable as they are, serve as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by extremist reactions based on religious sentiments and the pressing need to adhere to international human rights standards.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a foundational document, underscores the inherent right to freedom of religion, expression and a fair trial. It recognises that these freedoms are essential for the dignity and wellbeing of individuals, forming the bedrock of any democratic society. Moreover, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a legally binding treaty, reinforces the commitment to safeguarding human rights. It explicitly outlines the right to life, security and protection against discrimination of any kind. In this context, any justification of violence stands in direct opposition to these principles.

Within the framework of international law, specific legal instruments address the misuse of religious sentiments to fuel violence and hatred. Article 20 of ICCPR explicitly prohibits the advocacy of religious hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence, and articulates the responsibility of states to curb any form of expression that promotes enmity or prejudice among religious groups. By doing so, it underlines the imperative of maintaining social harmony and ensuring that freedom of expression does not infringe upon the rights and security of others. Pakistan’s international commitments to human rights stand in stark contrast to its domestic realities, exemplified by incidents like the recent one in Jaranwala.

Weak law enforcement, particularly in cases involving violence tied to blasphemy allegations, undermines the country’s obligation to protect citizens and maintain public order. A country that has been a great victim of terrorism has in recent times witnessed an extraordinary increase in vigilante violence. Moreover, the lack of open discourse on sensitive topics, such as blasphemy, perpetuates misconceptions and hinders understanding. This absence of meaningful dialogue prevents the dispelling of extremist narratives and contributes to incidents driven by anger and intolerance.

The contradictions between Pakistan’s international obligations and its domestic actions highlight the urgency of strengthening law enforcement mechanisms and promoting open discussions. Bridging this gap is essential. The Jaranwala incident serves as a sombre reminder to us of the urgency to uphold the values that are globally considered human rights standards. Pakistan faces a critical disconnect between its global pledges and local challenges, which calls for urgent reforms.

Muhammad Yousif Khan