Vigilantism on the rise in Pakistan

As protests continue in support of the assassin of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, masked men entered a girls' school in Rawalpindi on Friday and roughed up students and teachers before leaving with the warning that they should dress modestly and wear the hijab.

The brazen attack in the garrison city of Rawalpindi — which houses the General Headquarters — triggered a panic closure of schools in the area and attendance was thin on Saturday. According to local media reports, the teenaged boys were from a neighbourhood madrassa and were shouting religious slogans.

In a related incident, pamphlets against the film Bol were distributed at a conference in Lahore on Sunday. These pamphlets called for death sentence for the film's director, Shoaib Mansoor, and lead actor Humaima Malick for committing blasphemy.

The use of blasphemy laws against not only minority communities but also the dominant sect has increased in recent months. A case that hit the headlines pertained to a school girl getting expelled for spelling a word relating to the Prophet incorrectly.

Meanwhile, in Quetta — which has seen a spate of target killings of Hazara Shias — transporters have apparently refused to ferry members of the minority community. On September 20 and again last Wednesday, armed assailants attacked buses ferrying Hazara Shias, killing more than 40 members of the community in the two incidents.

Similarly, the Ahmadi community is coming under repeated attack. According to Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch, the government's reaction of appeasement following Taseer's assassination instead of holding people accountable has promoted a culture of vigilantism. As a result, there has been more use of the blasphemy laws since Taseer's killing, reflecting “ethical degradation of state and society.”

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 4:38:55 PM |

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