Given the present state of governance in Pakistan, a violent reaction to twin bombings in Youhanabad was foreseeable. A deprived community was tearing at the seams and violent eruptions were a matter of time. The Punjab Government must take the blame for not reading the pulse accurately. Though it rewarded this community with a woman MPA, it preferred to select an opportunist than a leader. I am not justifying a crime but endeavouring to find explanations about why a peaceful community turned violent. Inasmuch as the bombing of two churches is condemnable, the lynching and burning of two men by a frenzied mob is deplorable.  The act is contrary to Biblical teachings and the inability of prayer leaders to sink the message that states:

“Do not be afraid of the painful test you are suffering as though something unusual was happening to you…If any of you suffers, it must not be because he is a murderer or a thief or a criminal or meddles in other people’s affairs”. Peter II 4: 12-14

Had the Punjab Government noticed the simmers in the twin colonies of Youhanabad and Bihar Colony, this day would not have come. After reactions to occupation of Gosha E Aman in Garhi Shahu and the gutting of St. Joseph’s Colony in Badami Bagh Lahore, it had enough time to apply positive pacification measures. Instead, it resorted to coercion in the guise of urban development. Rumour was that the government plans to uproot and relocate these communities far from Model Town and the Metro Bus. On the pretext of urban development, Bihar Colony is already barricaded and isolated. Short entrances have been converted to long detours. The property mafia is flexing muscles. Water pipelines are contaminated with sewage and polio strains. Environmentally, this huge Christian enclave is becoming uninhabitable. An exodus is taking place with vultures and bulldozers in watch. The recent incident of the torture and killing of Zubair, a Christian youth in police custody in Lahore raised temperatures. Youhanabad was a precursor. If Punjab Gardi has its method, frustrations of a community on the edge breed anarchy.

In the larger context of Pakistani society, such incidents of crowd violence, lynching and burning are morphing from epidemic to endemic. The trails from Shanti Nagar to Korian to Gojra to Sambrial to Sangla Hill to Faisalabad to Gosha e Aman to Badami Bagh to Rawapalpindi to Radha Kishen to Issa Nagri in Karachi are far too many to be ignored. Add the lynching of two brothers in Sialkot; frequent burning of dacoits countrywide, Baldia fire in Karachi, police led killings in Model Town and violent hate crimes against the Ahmadiya community to frame multiple contexts for explanations. Realities are ugly and painful.  The state, political parties and civil society must share the blame for keeping their eyes closed to a well-established societal theory. Cocoon the fringe communities and in reaction, violence breeds.

In the first context, hate crimes have gone unpunished for far too long. From the entire gutting of Shanti Nagar to the most recent killing of Zubair in police custody, the state has been incapable of providing security to vulnerable communities or apprehending and punishing culprits. In Gosha e Aman, the state acted as a property mafia. In Sindh, daily forced conversions of Hindu girls and subsequent diversion into the grotesque sex trade is common. Religiously inspired crime and violence has political linkages. Highly politicised investigation mechanisms ensure the criminals go scot free. Recently the evidence of Punjab Government’s negotiations with terrorists has surfaced; something I repeatedly alleged in these columns. Unfortunately, it has been Shias, Christians, Hindus and Ahmadiyas at the receiving end. The ambers were smouldering for too long. To generalise, what has happened in Youhanabad is a reflection of what is happening all over Pakistan. While terrorism prevails, society implodes.

In the second context, when disfranchised excluded communities, ridden by poverty, illiteracy and stamped with social taboos have little recourse, frustrations take over. Shanty slums around highly developed urbanised environments create a social imbalance that breeds dissent, social inbreeding and crime. Ultimately petty crimes lead to organised gangs. This explanation fits the slums of Karachi with Faisalabad and Lahore not far behind. This is a poor reflection of socio-economic initiatives, urban planning and environmental engineering.

In the third context, the state has timidly ceded far too much space to illegal jirgas and mafias. Tribal chieftains and bigwigs enjoy their dictatorial authority with impunity. Every major incident has a political linkage. With no writ of law and poor persecution, crimes go unchecked. In cases involving religious minorities, these crimes occasionally have official patronage. Low caste Hindus in Sindh, Christians in Punjab and bonded labour in both Punjab and Sindh are the usual victims. Breeding grounds for violence are always ripe.

The fourth context is the mainstreaming of religious minorities and fringe communities. All political parties follow a policy of exclusion and reward their most obedient servants not leaders. Others join human rights movements and get into agitations rather than developmental mode.  It would be interesting to carry out a survey of non-Muslim NGOS and evaluate their achievements. With petty economic interests at stake, the elimination of ghetto syndromes is a difficult and challenging task.

Fifth are the religious leaders of minority communities. The Hindus themselves are divided into castes and the more privileged seldom care for the downtrodden. The three Christian mainstream churches in Catholics, Protestants and Presbyterians have consistently failed to provide leadership and nurture communities. Proliferation of self-styled churches disrupts synergy. Christian missions despite some of the best education institutions have done little to address the falling literacy standards in their communities.  Role models are far and few. A sorry state of affairs for a community that played a significant role in the formative years of Pakistan in the fields of foreign policy, defence, health, education, railways, police and urban development.

Pakistan is stuck in a vicious cycle; terrorism and social apartheid that breed violence. The cycle seems to be getting vicious.

Where do I begin to tell the story?