Dying tolerance and TLP factor
THE horrific lynching of a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot left every Pakistani embarrassed. The employees of Rajco Industries unleashed the attack on an innocent Sri-Lankan manager using the pretext of blasphemy. A charged mob killed the manager and then set his dead body on fire.
The videos of brutality are rounding on social media, in which corpse was burning, extremists were chanting slogans and to add insult to injury some were taking selfies. What happened in Sialkot portrays a very grim picture of tolerance in Pakistan.
Sadly, the first inquiry report has unearthed shocking realities. The inquiry report suggests that a delegation from a foreign country had to visit the factory and manager Priyantha Kumara asked to remove the stickers having religious writings.
Workers were already annoyed by Mr Kumara’s principle to maintain discipline. Even, some of the workers were suspended based on incompetence and callousness.
Additionally, at the time of the gloomy incident, the arrangements of cleanliness were being made. Walls were being painted. Furthermore, Mr. Kumara removed some stickers at 10:28 am that created some inconvenience between the manager and workers.
The inquiry further reveals that the manager was not familiar with the workers’ language, then factory owners mediated, and the issue was resolved.
The manager apologized for the misunderstanding but some workers abetted others to kill him.
All the security guards and factory owners ran away from the spot. Given the information, it is not difficult to deduce that Mr Kumara was innocent but extremism made him culprit unjustly. False use of blasphemy laws is becoming rife day by day.
Zia-ul-Haq introduced blasphemy laws in the 1980s. It will be pertinent to mention that before 1986; there were only 14 cases of blasphemy.
National Commission for Justice and Peace details that ‘from 1987 to 2014, 1335 Pakistanis were accused of blasphemy including 187 Christians, 494 Ahmadis, 663 Muslims, and 21 Hindus.
Moreover, many factors are responsible for extremism in Pakistan; one of the unavoidable is the TLP. Whether the factory workers were affiliated with TLP or not but psychologically, they were TLP’s supporters.
The government’s inefficiency and incompetency gave breathing space to TLP. Salman Taseer’s killing and the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri gave impetus to the rise of TLP as a movement.
Then’ Faizabad’s sit-in smoothed the way for its entry into the political arena. According to Abdul Basit in his research article “Barelvi Political activism and religious mobilization in Pakistan: The case study of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan” ‘TLP belongs to the Barelvi school of thought and it draws support from the Barelvi sects lower-middle-class youth which is more likely to adopt the path of violence and vigilantism’.
The TLP has tempted people to take the law in hands and has never condemned the misuse of blasphemy laws.
Bowing down to TLP pressure, again and again, Government has made TLP more powerful. A news report shows that from November 2017 to October 2021, seven protests have been staged by the TLP, and seven agreements have been signed.
Using TLP for political gains to destabilize the PLM-N government proved disastrous for the future of the country. In 2018, TLP bagged 2.2 million votes and emerged as the fifth largest party of Pakistan and third largest in Punjab.
Recently, the leader of TLP Saad Rizvi has released from prison. An important thing to note is that: A group of people from the PTI has a soft-corner for Rizvi. Rizvi is likely to bag more votes using religion.
The stability of TLP will be the instability of our society. If TLP’s march to conquer society goes inexorably, there will be more misuse of blasphemy laws.
There are some important suggestions to cope with the current situation of extremism. First of all, it is the writ of the state that needs to be established.
he majority of the issues are emanating from the poor rule of law and weak writ of the state. Using these religious extremists for political gains is no more affordable.
Secondly, there should be a consensus among Ulema and Masha’iq that taking law in hand is not acceptable and no one can kill anyone using blasphemy allegations. It is a matter of the judiciary to solve, not the individuals. They must direct their adherents to avoid taking law into hand.
Thirdly, extremism is increasing in universities also. We need to develop centres for Islamic research in universities.
Courses like Islam and tolerance, Islam and pluralism, the Holy Prophet SAWW and society, Islam and westernization and Islam and secularism should be compulsory.
The violent groups of students like Jamiat-Tulba-Islam should be discouraged in Universities.
These violent groups get political supports from politicians which help them to survive. Fourthly, unfortunately, many teachers and students in universities think that sidelining religion is the only way out of extremism.
They have to know that understanding religion is the solution. Fifthly, the religious seminaries should be under the government’s control and the government should make a head of Madaris having PhD in Islamiat and having a good understanding of Quran and Sunnah.
Course outline should be prepared by the religious scholars on state directives. Last but not the least is that over 20 million children are out of school, they are more prone to be extremists. Religious clerics can use them for violent activities.
—The writer is independent researcher and contributing columnist.