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Pakistan: Horrid Act of Mob Shock The Citizens

Categories: South Asia, Pakistan, Disaster, Human Rights, Law, Media & Journalism, Youth

As if the stories of human suffering, displacement of millions of people due to havoc caused by the flooding [1] were not enough for the nation, yet another tragic incident started unfolding in Pakistan recently. Pakistanis are in shock as the news and video of the brutal mob-lynching [2] of two teenage brothers were aired on local media on 22nd of August, 2010.

According to the local newspapers [3], the mob-lynching occurred on 15th August in Sialkot, in eastern Punjab province of Pakistan. Later, it turned out that the victims, Moiz Butt (17) and his brother Muneeb (15), were innocent and belonged to a respectable family.

Mob-lynching in front of police [4]

Beating two boys in front of police and an enthusiastic crowd. Screenshot from YouTube Video

Apparently, the two boys in question had gotten into a fight over a cricket match and when they were headed out for another match early morning the following day, they were ambushed and once the townsfolk and the police noticed, the perpetrators blamed them for theft and the boys were beaten to death by a savage mob.

The video clips of the incident are the reason why everyone can feel the intensity of the incident. The origins of the video are unknown and there are reports that multiple men in the crowd recorded the attack using cell phones. The images of the boys’ bloodied bodies, but several faces in the crowd are clearly identifiable, including several police officers in uniform who watched.

The scene, caught on video and broadcast on news channels, has outraged and anguished Pakistanis. Here are the links (1 [5], 2 [6], and 3 [4]).

President Asif Ali Zardari [7]has strongly condemned the killing and called for an inquiry vowing to punish the killers. The Interior Minister Rehman Malik [8] asserted that the local citizens will not be allowed to create their own justice system.

The Supreme Court has taken notice [9] of the double murder and a case was registered against 14 people. [10]

Many Pakistani Bloggers have been outraged by this incident. Asadullah Qureshi, a blogger writes [11]:

“We need to own up to the fact that the perpetrators arose from amongst us. After all is said and done, as long as a majority of the country, willingly or unwillingly, shuns reason in favour of this extremist sense of morality and justice, it is likely we will see such a tragedy again.”

Jahanzaib Haque at Express Blog [12] highlights this issue by claiming ‘I am part of the Sialkot lynch mob':

“Let’s end the blame game. Let’s stop pointing fingers at Taliban, drugs, political parties, elite, police, army or even a global conspiracy is afoot. I will be the first to admit that I have made some terrible choices in my life. I am part of that mob in Sialkot. Despair is easy, hate is easy, apathy is easy, but for the sake of two brothers in Sialkot, we should try to change by effectively addressing the corruption within us. It is either that, or stand alongside the mob to watch on.”

The blogger further adds:

“In a country afflicted with back-to-back political and civil strife, war, terrorism, poverty and natural disaster, violent extremism (in all forms) is bound to flourish, nay become an outlet for venting the utter helplessness individuals feel at a personal level. And none of us are immune to its effect.”

Sadaf Khan, a journalist writes at her blog ‘Existential Quest’ [13]:

“Having seen the insane act, un-cut and un-blurred, I cannot even begin to comprehend just how anybody with the least bit of humanity, could actually stand there are watch the barbarians without so much as flinching. The double murder in Sialkot is not just an unfortunate and horrifying incident; it is not just a matter of an out of control mob. The incident, in fact is proof that we as a society have become so devastatingly barbaric, that dozens can actually stand and watch, while some men literally beat the life out of two helpless teenagers.

Barbarians within a barbaric crowd, Is there any thing, any thing in the world that could actually be termed fair punishment for these people?”

Haroon Riaz, a free lance writer made following remarks in his insightful article ‘The Sialkot Carnage: Are Pakistanis Becoming a Savage Nation? [14]’:

“I have a feeling these brutal savages knew who these boys were and that they were specifically targeted. I have a feeling that there is more to this story, which is being covered up by the people, the corrupt DPO, the local administration and the criminal police of the area.
This tragic and horrific incident should get every Pakistani worried and thinking. It is not an everyday incident or act of crime at all. For if they do not speak out against it, and talk about it, so to educate the unaware masses out there, many of them could find the same treatment on the streets.”

This incident also proves to be a wakeup call for Pakistan's law-enforcing agencies as is evident from the following views:

Fiverupees comments [15]:

“”.. Authority exists only if people believe it exists. Do citizens believe that they will get justice if they leave it up to the state? If yes, it makes sense to leave it in its hands. If not, it doesn't, and by that very action, they undermine the authority of the state.

When government doesn't work, people make their own personal governments. 180 million mini-governments is a recipe for disaster; it is a return to the state of nature. The media and technological revolutions in this country have meant that people are increasingly aware that government doesn't work. In my mind, this issue — of how to get the state to do the simple things right – will be the public policy issue that serious analysts and activists must grapple with for the next ten or fifteen years. The very deep and structural change Pakistan is going through demand nothing less.”

Dawn newspaper's editorial on ‘Mob justice’ [16] comments:

“When those tasked with law enforcement and governance fail to deliver and a general sense of hopelessness and injustice prevails in society, people take matters into their own hands.”

Horrific as the incident may sound but ‘mob justice’ has been quite the norm in some rural parts of the country. Mob justice or the rule of might is right is an action prevailing in societies who have lost the trust in the law of state so the societies turn into vigilantes.

While the causes of the incident are being probed by the authorities, one evident cause is the rise of extremism in our society which has its roots in ignorance and no doubt ‘ignorance is the root and stem of every evil.’