When rule of law turns to rule of mob

Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of Bacha Khan University, Mardan, was brutally lynched on April 15 by a violent mob of educated people -including some of the teachers of the same university – on suspicion of posting blasphemous material on social media. The issue was highlighted by local and international media after which the state machinery arrested several men involved in lynching.

A terrible fact of the story is that Mardan police were present when people were planning to kill Mashal. When the mob marched towards his room in the hostel, the police officials were there like silent spectators—or probably silent supporters, which can be observed in the videos of lynching that have gone viral.

That night, when a mullah of his village issued a decree that he was a blasphemer and nobody should attend his funeral, the same Mardan Police were present in the village to protect the family and funeral rights. We have great respect for the group of youth from a nearby district who rushed to the scene purely on human grounds and helped the family bury Mashal.

On April 21, an angry mob attacked a person with a mental disorder in a mosque for committing alleged blasphemy. The Imam of the mosque barely saved him after he was brutally beaten by the mob. Later, police took him into custody.

These are not new trends in Pakistan. It has turned into an everyday routine.

In August 2010, two brothers, 22 and 16, were lynched by a mob in the presence of police and rescue officials in Sialkot. Initially, the mob spread a rumour that they were alleged robbers.

In November 2014, a mob burnt a Christian couple in a kiln for alleged blasphemy in Kasur. The female victim was pregnant.

In March 2015, a Christian mob lynched two men soon after suicide bomb attacks on two churches in Lahore. The mob suspected that the two men had links to the bombing, but later they were identified as peaceful citizens.

The situation is getting worse in Pakistan. Extremism has led the people to a point where they have started settling personal vendetta or grudges by misusing religion or the country’s laws. It speaks of the poor performance of the government.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, hours after Mashal’s death, issued a statement that ‘mob justice’ cannot be allowed in Pakistan. He should have known: one, the terminology ‘mob justice’ is not used in the law-abiding societies and democracies; two, mobs of the youth, who grew up in an extremist society like Pakistan, don’t need any permission to eradicate their targets.

PM Sharif should not ignore the facts that police officials deviated from their oaths on several occasions and gave free hands to such mobs. And, a few retired and serving judges, as lawyers, had offered their volunteer services to the criminals, involved in murders and terrorism.

This indicates that Pakistan’s democracy is rapidly turning into ochlocracy, mob rule – a democratic system spoiled by the tyranny of the majority and a rule of passion over reason.

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