It is the death knell for law and order in a nation when the tendency to take the law into one’s own hands has been gaining strength over time. No doubt, the wave of fanatical-extremist thinking gripping the land at the moment is operating without penalty and without any fear of being apprehended by the police. And if the issue in hand is an alleged case of blasphemy, even the police intervention or persuasion to control the enraged mob proves of little use. That is what happened on Saturday morning when a sizeable crowd gathered around a Christian colony in Lahore’s Badami Bagh on reports circulated against Sawan Masih, a 26-year old resident of that colony. For fear of disturbance of peace, the police took the accused into custody as news about the reported incident began circulating in the area. But nearly twelve hours later, in a coldly premeditated move, steeped in religious hatred and enmity, a violent mob descended on the Badami Bagh area. In no time, they had set the neighbourhood alight. Eventually, nearly a hundred houses stood destroyed and motorcycles, rickshaws and cycles in the alleys were thrown onto a bonfire. The crowd left the scene after the damage was done, on the appeal of the khateeb from Badshahi Mosque who arrived at the scene to lead the appeal for calm.

It must be acknowledged that our collective mindset as a nation is in smithereens. Such demonstrations are sad and ugly proof of reason lost to the wind. No rage, no injustice, no offence is displayed by society for members of minorities in Pakistan who bear the brunt of our collective tolerance of such bigoted, uneducated, reactionary elements who live within us. This is by no means the first time. The horrific events in Gojra come to mind. We have learnt nothing and continue to set fire to our own land, slaughter our own citizens, pillage our own neighbourhoods and set fire to our own streets.

Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace, examples of which are found during the reign of the Prophet (pbuh) himself. Quaid-i-Azam unequivocally stated more than once that the minorities enjoy the same rights in Pakistan as the Muslim. In the modern age, this alone is the acceptable approach. The world is already justifiably pointing fingers at such incidents as examples of barbaric behaviour, which are coming to epitomize Pakistan, not just in the foreign press, but even to ourselves when we glance in the mirror. Targeting hundreds with cold premeditation, burning down an entire neighbourhood, acting on an unproven charge is no evidence of religious ‘devotion’. It is downright criminal and must not be tolerated. Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif did well to ask, “What good has been done to Islam by the burning of a 100 houses?” Every person involved in burning down the Badami Bagh colony must be identified and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Something must be done to prevent another Gojra, another Badami Bagh. How many more times can Quaid-i-Azam’s Pakistan survive such barbarism?