Last week, the HRCP held a consultative meeting in Karachi, to highlight the issues faced by the Ahmadi community in Pakistan. According to news reports, the panel members included a renowned judge and other noted people. They talked about the plight of the Ahmadi community and the injustices they have to suffer at educational institutes and work places. This was a rare event where the members of the Ahmadi community actually came to the forefront to highlight their issues and were given press coverage. However, not even two days had passed after this event, that three people, who were seemingly sitting outside their house, were shot and injured in Karachi. One of those injured was a 17-year-old boy. The mainstream national media has not reported anywhere that these people were in fact Ahmadis and that the crime may be faith based. So far no arrests have been made and no further news has appeared about the conditions of the victims anywhere. There is no precedence for such an incident in Karachi before now.

If we analyse other hate crimes that have taken place in the country over the last few years, the major incidents that come to mind are the attack on Christian colony in Gojra in 2009; attack on Joseph Colony in Lahore in 2013; vandalism of an Ahmadi graveyard in Lahore in 2012; the killing of an Ahmadi Luqman Ahmed Shehzad in December 2014; and more recently in May 2015, the attack on Christian community in Dhoop Sarri, Lahore.

Let us take a look at the Joseph colony incident. It started as a result of a minor argument between a Christian Sawan Masih and a Muslim of the area. Over the next two days the colony was under attack by a mob, led by a religious leader and a man belonging to a neighbouring locality. A mob of hundreds of people kept the colony under attack, and went on a killing and ransacking spree for two days. The police was present at the scene on the second day, but did nothing to stop the mob from desecrating the church and demolishing the houses. Later, around 150 people were arrested on charges of hooliganism. Sawan Masih was also arrested and was later charged for blasphemy on complaint of one of the chief attackers. Masih was indicted and sentenced to death in 2014. As for the rest of the people responsible for causing damage to property and terrorizing the locals, nothing much came out of it. The cleric of the local mosque and other people involved in instigating the mob did not get the punishment which should have been meted out to them. The government gave Rs. 500,000 to each of the families whose house was damaged during the episode. The family of Sawan Masih, as well as their supporters, live fearing for their lives.

In 2007, the Christian colony in Gojra was terrorized and houses were burned by a mob on suspicion of desecration of Quran. Official figures suggest that eight people were killed in this incident and most of them were burnt alive inside their houses. The injured were not allowed to be taken to the hospital. The police arrived 5 hours after the incident and by then all the damage was done. The allegation that served as the motivation for the atrocity turned out to be false later on. The police arrested dozens of people afterwards but no one was charged for the crimes. Afterwards around 70 people were released citing lack of evidence. There has been no progress in the case since then.

In July 2014, an angry mob attacked some houses belonging to the Ahmadi community in Gujranwala. As a result three women including a seven-year-old girl were killed. The police was allegedly present at the scene but could do nothing to contain the violent crowd. Ahmadi leader Luqman Ahmed Shehzad was gunned down in December 2014, five days after hate speech by a religious leader who appeared on the TV show of televangelist Aamir Liaquat Hussain. To this date no case has been registered against any culprits. The TV show host and the religious leader haven’t even been summoned for questioning.

The Hindu community of Pakistan has forever been walking on shards of glass and their only crime is belonging to a non-Muslim faith. In the interior Sindh as well as Balochistan, they live their lives looking over their shoulder. Numerous girls have been kidnaped, falsely lured towards a better future or coerced into changing their religion. Barring one or two cases, which make it big due to media coverage, none of these atrocities are brought to the limelight. It is an open secret that the local religious and political influencers are behind these crimes, but no one is ever brought to justice.

There are a number of such incidents which highlight atrocities against the minority communities and faith based groups by members of the general public. More importantly the culprits are never adjudged criminals and almost always succeed in leading a free life. If we analyze each of these incidents, we reach a very obvious, as well as scary, conclusion. The mindset of the attackers belonging to the general public is filled with pseudo superiority. The vast majority of Pakistanis deem themselves to be the divine custodians of the holy truth. We feel that our sheer belief gives us the right to harass and demonize others who may have a different outlook on faith. We let our inner demons come out and rule us at the mere suspicion of any insult carried out to our belief, yet we do not think twice before ransacking the places of worship of other faiths and burning their holy books. The double whammy is: this mindset is provided exceptional support by a crumbling, biased law and order system which is notorious for letting the culprits walk and instead victimizes the victims. The law enforcement agencies, and more than them the masses, are in great need of some honest soul searching.