There is no excuse for violence or for harming another individual, unless it is for self-defence. Anger, humiliation, ridicule, verbal abuse – all categories of non-physical harm do not make a person liable to be physically assaulted. Such an assault would be unfair, proportional, and its logic justifies further reactionary violence.

This simple moral realisation is something many Pakistanis have not been able to grasp. This was most recently exhibited in a video clip that went viral on social media where a National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) security guard in Liaquatabad, was harassed by a female reporter and lashed out physically and slapped her. On Thursday, the Gulbahar police registered an FIR against FC guard Hasan Abbas posted at the Nadra office in Liaquatabad for allegedly slapping the reporter. A “counter-case” was then registered against the reporter of a private news channel on the complaint of a Nadra official for creating “hindrances in official work”.

The whole story points out some glaring problems in our governance and interpersonal relations. The reason cameras were on the scene outside the Nadra office was to report on the difficulties faced by people. Nadra did not care about the rudeness of their security personnel and rather than apologising to the victim, furthered a legal battle, a further drain of citizen’s resources. This logic, that “she had it coming” is why domestic abuse, mob culture, and extremism have become so prevalent. Many have questioned the reporter’s professionalism and the way she was addressing the FC guard and challenging him among dozens of people. This is valid criticism, however, it still does not give him the leeway to hit her for being unprofessional.

According to its modern definition, the state is the only legitimate source that can exercise violence, and that two after neutral arbitration between grieved parties. Additionally, our state and its constitution are based on 19th century ideas of liberty that purport that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. The causing of harm is what creates oppression, the state is there to make sure that such oppression and harm does not come to pass.

Thus in cases of verbal attacks, logic dictates that the response be only in kind. Our religion in most cases dictates forgiveness. All modern law dictates that the response be deferred to a state authority that will determine punishment impartially and proportionally. In our country, with our warped notions of honour, none of these apply.