Monday, November 17, 2014

Marvi Sirmed - Pakistan: How to get away with murder


Too afraid of the law to kill someone ? If you’re in Pakistan, law should not be a problem. We have a special recipe of getting away with murder, lynching, arson and loot. Trust me you can do all of this with impunity and turn it into an ‘honorable act’. Let me tell you how. Just invest in a cleric, lure an Imam Masjid into giving an emotional khutba (religious sermon), accuse the person-in-question of blasphemy and you are sorted. Within hours a mob will gather and assist you doing the job with full protection from the law.

If we are a mob, we don’t have to be bothered about the distractions like evidence of blasphemy or due process of law. Didn’t we see it in Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood, when it was burnt and valuables looted ? Or when Francis Colony in Gujranwala was attacked ? The standard operating procedure is, a cleric instigates ‘good Muslims’ who then take it upon themselves to safeguard the honour of the ‘religion of peace’ through bloodshed, loot and carnage.

A few years ago Aasiya Bibi, a Christian woman, was accused of dishonoring Islam on a minor dispute with her Muslim neighbors. The lower court later sentenced her to death with insubstantial evidence under the pressure of religiously charged crowds. When then-Governor of the Punjab went to the jail to assure her of his support, he was killed. Later, the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs was also killed because he was chairing a committee that had to review misuse of the country’s infamous blasphemy laws.

In March 2013, Lahore’s Joseph Colony and a month later Gujranwala’s Francis Colony were attacked, houses burnt and several killed. Both the attacks were fuelled by the clerics on hearsay of ‘dishonoring Islam’. In Francis Colony case, the local cleric instigated the unruly crowd for ‘teaching them the lesson’ when he heard two Christian boys playing music on their mobile phones. Joseph Colony was motivated by real estate mafia who wanted to vacate the prime land inhabited by Christian workers since decades. The pyromania that followed brought back the gory memories of Gojra when scores were killed on accusation of blasphemy. The ‘impure’ Christians were ‘taught a lesson’ with an iron hand to protect the honor of the ‘religion of peace’ (my intention in repeating this is to highlight the irony).

Rimsha Masih, a minor girl suffering from Down syndrome was accused by the local cleric of burning pages of the Quran. It was later proven in the court of law that she was set up for the alleged blasphemy by the cleric Khalid Jadoon. She was acquitted but had to flee the country for fear of her life. Her family was renting a small house in an overwhelmingly Christian neighborhood, which was something ‘impure’ for the cleric. Later it was revealed that the poor Christian families were of least value for the landowner who wanted to evacuate it to make more lucrative use of the prime land.

The law, the due process of the law, the facts and the court’s judgment are probably of no apparent significance for the angry mob of ‘good Muslims’. The cleric Khalid Jadoon who burnt Quran pages to set up Rimsha doesn’t have to fear anyone. No wonder he is living a free man’s life after concocting blasphemy accusations. Khaas hay tarkeeb main qaum-e-Rasool-e-Hashmi !

Last week another town of Punjab, Kot Radha Kishan ended up lynching a Christian couple and burning them down on alleged blasphemy. An angry mob, as per the SoP, attacked and quenched its blood thirst to save the ‘religion of peace’, after a cleric instigates the crowd. Like almost all the other cases, this one was also inspired by worldly motives.

The owner of the brick kiln, Yousaf Gujjar, notorious for not paying the kiln workers and habitually involved in bonded labor, developed a wage conflict with Sajjad and shama, the kiln worker couple who he later managed to incarcerate in a room in his office. The local clerics reportedly were used to incite the people through the powerful weapon they have : the mosque loudspeaker and poisonous verbosity. What followed is history. The ordeal of the poor couple that could not pay back the advance money out of their wages is too painful to reproduce.

The common factor in all these tragic incidents is the role of police and law enforcing agencies. In every case, the Police were found either abetting the culprits or staying unbothered witnessing the carnage. In the Kot Radha Kishan brutality, there are conflicting reports of the role of the police. According to some reports, the police was standing there and looking silently at what was happening. According to others, the police went to the kiln owner to take the couple in protective custody but could not do anything when Gujjar refused to hand over the couple to the police.

The police had exactly the same role in each case ; they ‘protected’ the victims like Army jawaans were protecting Parliament House a month ago. Every time a blasphemy allegation emerged, the accused was killed before the blasphemy laws could be used. There was no attempt or readiness or even time to approach the court. The instigated and angry mob was left unhindered and untouched when it attacked the powerless.

The state remained unbothered when its writ was violated in Kot Radha Kishan and earlier in Joseph Colony, Francis Colony and Gojra. The state can’t even protect the inmates of Jails and police stations as we saw in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala Jail and a police station in Gujrat. In former the jail guard axed an inmate and in latter an Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police killed one in custody on blasphemy allegation. What rule of law do we talk about ? What constitution ? What institutional strengthening ? What democracy ? What a farce all this is.

That none of the pillars of the state or the vigilante media would question it, is also part of the standard operating procedure. It is intriguing that the same complacent and lethargic state deals quite hyperactively, with the ‘illegal’ barriers in front of a house in Model Town, Lahore and ends up killing over a dozen including women. Priorities !

The enemy has spread itself far beyond the TTP. It’s among us. Did you notice that all of this happened in Punjab, not in Waziristan or other tribal areas ? Common citizens, not the banned outfits or the Taliban, perpetrated all of this. If the US drones strikes, as per the popular narrative, fanned FATA insurgency, what is really responsible for this bloodshed in ‘settled areas’ and the ‘heart of Pakistan’ ? If terrorism is being fought in Waziristan through military action, what should be done to contain it in the biggest province ? If our intellectuals are worried about the lost writ of the state in northern ‘religiously extremist’ areas of Pakistan, why don’t we talk about sheer absence of even a shred of this writ in Punjab ? Shouldn’t the Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of the Punjab try to look for easy answers to these questions ? Citizens don’t need the pacifier of your ‘strong condemnation.
http://sacw.net/article9993.html