The jury is out on the worst form of terrorism

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar called the lynching of two Muslims by Christians in Lahore “the worst kind of terrorism”. This is binary thinking: Muslims lynching innocent victims being a lesser form of terrorism versus Christians lynching innocent victims being an insult to our intellect and to all sense of fairness, especially when it is Chaudhary Nisar who called the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud a “murder of peace”. It begs the question: whose side is the sitting government on exactly?

Chaudhry Nisar is not alone in this absurdity. The entire Pakistani society’s reaction to Christians lynching Muslims is very different to their reaction of Muslims lynching Muslims. Remember the boys who were lynched in Sialkot? Nobody demanded that the people who did the lynching needed to be taught a lesson once and for all for forgetting their place in the pecking order and that the issue was one of religious community. Mob justice is a common phenomenon in Pakistan and is practiced with increasing callousness and disregard for the rule of law. So why the sudden over-the-top outcry and horror over this particular incident?

It must be stated for the record that nobody should be lynched. Nobody deserves it. This means that not a single person should be subjected to such a barbaric act. Nobody. None. Ever. The lives of the glasscutter and the garment worker that the Christian mob ended up murdering are no less precious than the lives of Shama Bibi and Shahzad Masih from Kot Radha Kishan near Lahore. The Christian couple, who were the parents of three young children, were burnt alive near the brick-making factory in front of their children. This horrendous act was to avenge a crime that they had not been tried for. They were no less innocent.

We find, however, a stark difference between the way the two cases were profiled. The media, and particularly the Urdu mainstream media, humanised the victims of the Christian mob and practically ignored the personal details of the Christians attacked by a Muslim mob. They were both crimes against human dignity. Shazia Bibi was carrying a child when she was burnt. It does not get more vulnerable and more human than that. The attack on the Christian couple was later investigated and it had turned out that the mob was incited on the dictate of a local mosque cleric. As a contrast, the Protestant and Catholic community leadership asked for forgiveness. “We ask forgiveness for the reaction of the Christian community,” said Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church of Pakistan.

These double standards when it comes to our society’s condemnation are not acceptable. They are telling of the maladjustment and medieval conceptions that make up our schema. We desperately need to realise that our thinking ought not to be a product of our personal prejudices but is indeed a collective equity of our nation. Pakistanis and the lives and wellbeing of Pakistanis ought to be our axis. If you do not agree, please feel free to take up a ministerial position and play out your clan supremacy and bias.

The community we are discussing here is one that is already marginalised. The three million Christians in the country have been repaid for their devotion to the country with only scorn and degradation, ostracisation and loathing.

Allow me to review what exactly happened on the day of the lynching on March 15, 2015. Two bombs were set off in Youhanabad, Lahore near two churches. More than 20 people were killed and over 80 injured. This attack was thwarted by security guards or it would have been a greater calamity similar to the one in Peshawar in 2013. What we see sadly is that with the lynching outrage, the horror of the bombings have redirected from sympathy towards the community towards their demonisation. The injustice of this is unfathomable, for this community has sacrificed rivers of blood for a war that they have no part in.

Stoking the fires of distrust against a minority community is truly the worst form of terrorism. Even worse than that is playing favourites over corpses of one kind of Pakistani over another.

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