Sialkot blasphemy

The murder of a Sri Lankan is the latest example of a rising trend

Even if the murder of a Sri Lankan in a Sialkot factory was not bad enough, the burning of his body showed a vindictiveness that reflects the rising of an odd spirit of intolerance. The burning of a police station in Charsadda last week, in attempt to get the police to surrender an accused to a similar mob, shows that the blasphemy accusation is not being left to the law enforcing authorities.

Did the Sri Lankan commit blasphemy? We will never know, because no court has pronounced on the question. Was the Charsadda accused liable for trial? The crowd burning down the police station did not wait for a judicial decision. The courts, unfortunately, are seen as places where blasphemers are let off, or where they escape and go abroad. Blasphemy is not the only provocation.

Ten years ago, two teenage brothers were beaten to death by a mob in Sialkot, the killers acusing them of dacoity and murder. True, people are ready to let the legal machinery deal with most crimes, but the lack of trust in the law enforcing machinery seems to be greater in blasphemy cases.

However, the entire purpose of making blasphemy a crime cognisable by the police and the courts is to prevent mobs taking the law into their own hands.

The role of such religious parties as the Tehrik Labbaik Pakistan, which provoke public anger by laying charges of blasphemy, but do not propose a reform programme or enunciate any policies driven by religious principles, is worth examining. They are quick to seize on the legal remedies afforded by the system, but do not seem ready to concede these protections to others. It is actually a matter of tolerance: Blasphemy may be intolerable, but it is supposed to be tolerated enough for the alleged blasphemer to be brought to trial. Religious fervour and extremism have apparently gone so far that a remedy can only be provided by an inculcation of tolerance in people. Also, the state has got to enforce its writ. No one can be allowed to get away with murder, no matter how holy he thinks his cause.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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