By Ghalib Sultan
The picture on top says it all. A mob in the background and an exultant youth in the foreground with smoke, fire and burning homes all around. This was the scene in the heart of Lahore when Christian homes were set on fire because of alleged blasphemy by a Christian who had already been booked under the Blasphemy Law by the police on the complaint of a Muslim. The mob that went on the rampage looting and burning homes was apparently venting their rage. No one died and no injuries were reported but Pakistan's image was destroyed beyond repair-collateral damage from the point of view of the bigoted and the intolerant but a mortal blow to Pakistan for those whose heads hung in shame.
Now that the smoke has blown away, compensatory payments made to those who lost everything, the rebuilding process begun and some arrests made a clearer picture is slowly emerging. The Police advised the people to run for their lives hours before the mob arrived and they ran-the men, the women, the aged and the children all ran for their lives in all directions away from their homes leaving everything behind. Why did the police do this-to facilitate looting and burning, to save lives or because they did not want or could not face down the mob to protect lives and property? If the Police had advance information did this information flow upwards and if it did was it ignored? And if it did not then why not?
There are credible reports that the mob came prepared for their grisly task---with sticks, stones, gasoline cans etc. If so then this was no spontaneous venting of rage. This was a well planned event for which a large number of people had been mustered and prepared. If this was planned then who was behind it?- those who wanted the land on which the colony was built?- or those who had political motives and wanted to undermine the political administration in Punjab or was it a combination of both?. The land mafia would have known the consequences of such an atrocity and it is unlikely that they actually believed that the land would fall in their lap after the pillage. The political motive is more plausible and is also borne out by the fact that after the attack on the Christians some apparently counter attacks were organized on the pride and joy of the Punjab government-the new Metrobus system.
The Punjab government moved quickly to limit the damage and to begin rehabilitation work. An inquiry has also been ordered and arrests made. No doubt that there has been political fall-out but on the positive side people have rallied in support of the Christian community and against the forces of bigotry and intolerance that exist in society. There have been many previous incidents of this kind but never has exemplary punishment been awarded to deter such behavior. In the final analysis the blame must also go to people who are ready to undertake such criminal and reprehensible behavior.