Pakistan is a country of contrasting styles and levels. The super and nouvelle rich drive imported limousines, live in posh custom built localities, dine and shop world class, and maintain dollar and euro accounts in local banks. Devaluation of the rupee makes them richer. In contrast, each year a crowd of women gather in Karachi and Rawalpindi at free food distribution points. Death through stampedes is a regular tragedy. Recently, a raptured oil pipeline interested the poor who gathered there with buckets. Luckily, there is no inferno like Nigeria. Pakistan is a country that thrives on luxury for a few, but represents hunger and starvation for many. Public sector and human development programmes are a gold mine. Tragedies make the few richer.

Extreme poverty and wealth coexist in Pakistan’s volatile socio-economic environments. Long ago when Jinnah’s dream died and Bhutto’s socialism proved a farce, mainstream political parties dispensed with intellectuals and social activists as the conscience. They were replaced with corrupt bigwigs, electables, mafioso, thugs and extortionists who could gather both votes and revenues for the parties they represent. State franchised violence and crime continued to intensify. Within the deprived sectors of Pakistan that comprise more than 80% people, misrule of law is the long arm. Societal reaction, if ever, will be fierce.

In urban Sindh, criminals backed by political parties kill, extort and dispense street justice at will. Nobody is safe unless they have subdued to the dictates of these criminal gangs.

Abductions, forcible conversions, selling, reselling and sometimes disposing of Hindu girls are new emerging crimes in Sindh. This has led to the exodus of Hindus. The entire racket is managed by a PPP arm-twister Mian Abdul Khaliq Mithu, a Sajjada Nasheen (caretaker) of the Bharchundi Shareef dargah of Deherki. Human rights activists within PPP have been humbled and Asif Ali Zardari and the Supreme Court directly challenged. The gang, making a mockery of law operates with impunity. Name a Hindu girl abducted or forcibly converted and Mithu’s involvement is a foregone conclusion. The entire notion of exploiting religious sentiments is reinforced by the open display of fire arms and threat.

Famine in Nara and Thar deserts of Sindh is a neglected tragedy. Despite massive flooding each year, water is not channelized to these areas for permanent relief. High cost standalone water purification schemes with poor results are initiated in return for kickbacks. Similarly, the Sindh government plays games with the huge lignite reserves in Thar, because introduction of technology will untie the stranglehold of political and feudal mafias over the people of the region. The people who suffer or stand to gain comprise extremely poor Hindus treated as fodder.

In rural Sindh, the entire fabric of civilian governance has collapsed. The writ of law, if any, is maintained by arm twisters. Politically recruited police operates in tandem. Democracy and adult franchise is a farce. Bonded labour, private jails, extra judicial killings and exploitation of the common man are the norms.

Punjab does not lag behind. Behind the crimes against non-Muslims are vested interests of politically franchised groups.

In 2009, despite early warnings by intelligence agencies of an imminent attack on Christians in Gojra, a frenzied mob led by a banned militant outfit burnt a Christian Village at Korian and Gojra. Nine persons were reduced to ashes. Police remained a bystander. The PMLN provincial government and PPP led Federal government locked horns for a few days. The mastermind of the incident was a local bigwig and property tycoon Qadeer Awan. A half cooked FIR was registered, compensations exchanged many a hands subsequently exhorted by police through counter FIR. The incident is forgotten. Awan returned as a PMLN MPA in elections 2013. What followed under the 18th amendment was to illogically resign minorities as a provincial subject.

In 2011, charges of blasphemy were raised by Ifan Qadri against 25 Christians of Gujranwala. A local cleric was used to present burnt pages of the Holy Quran and posters. A Christian colony was attacked. During joint investigations, the accusers confessed having fabricated the evidence. No charges of blasphemy were pressed against the local mafia.

In 2012, the Punjab Government through fabricated records used Lahore Development Authority to bulldoze Gosha e Aman, a Christian facility to grab high value real estate. They destroyed Holy Bibles and the alter of the Chapel. Despite protests, nothing has happened.

In St. Joseph’s Colony, Lahore, two addicts traded abuses over petty transactions. The next day, a frenzied mob burnt the entire colony to ashes. A lower court sentenced the Christian to death while perpetuators of the crime went scot free. The issue is the prime land encroached by a steel market mafia backed by local political bigwigs. The men behind the scheme returned as MNA and MPAs.

Most recently, a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishen working at a brick kiln as bonded labour was kept in illegal confinement and tortured. Five days later, a religious frenzy was orchestrated. A mob led by the kiln owner lynched and threw the couple into the inferno. The police watched the whole episode as a bystander and later registered a half-hearted First Investigation Report with legal loopholes. The entire episode is being branded as a case of blasphemy to camouflage a motive. Christians in the area are big land owners and must be evicted.

Though more incidents can be quoted, the argument in this analysis is being limited to an explanation that repeated incidents of mob justice and lawlessness in the two main provinces of Pakistan have direct linkages with the political interests of the two biggest political parties. In electoral politics, co-option of local bigwigs is indispensable to gaining victory. For PMLN and PPP, stranglehold on Punjab and Sindh are crucial for political survival.

Sometimes realistic assessments carry a tinge of cruelty because of obvious logic. Once again we are witnessing a charade of talk shows, visits to Kot Radha Kishen and Clarkeabad by signatories, compensations, arrests and investigations. As the dust settles, the incident will be forgotten, compensations extorted, and Christian spirit of forgiveness exploited. Behind the scene, ugly deals will normalise the situation for yet another eruption elsewhere. Minority leaders of ruling parties for the sake of tickets and kickbacks will play minions. The pyre will continue to smoulder and periodically burst into flames.

Meanwhile any political party that takes the initiative to politically mainstream non-Muslims from their slumber will challenge this status quo.

 Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.