The entire Pakistan government, indeed the entire system, is jihad-compliant.


The lynching of Priyantha Diyawadanage, a 48-year-old Sri Lankan man in Sialkot, underlines Pakistan’s descent into barbarism and Islamist inferno. That the country’s Defence Minister sought to downplay, even condone, the outrage, confirms, if any confirmation is needed, that the descent is swift and unstoppable.

The unfortunate man was wrongly accused of blasphemy and murdered; he was also burned. Nilushi Dissanayaka, widow of the Sri Lankan manager, rightly pointed out, “He was very much aware of the living conditions in Pakistan. It is a Muslim country. He knew what he should not do there and that’s how he managed to work there for eleven years.” She has urged both the Pakistan and Sri Lanka governments to investigate the matter and “bring justice to my husband and my two children.” She told BBC, “I saw that he was being attacked on the internet…it was so inhumane.”

Left-liberals in our country say that the deshbhakts should not use the horrible incident to show that our western neighbour is a barbaric nation; they also say that India is not much better. Their viewpoint is not without merit, but there is a critical difference between the two South Asian nations, as we shall see.

Prime Minister Imran Khan held a Cabinet meeting and expressed serious concern over the lynching. “The participants of the meeting were of the view that individuals and mobs cannot be allowed to take the law into their hands and such incidents cannot be tolerated,” said an official statement after the meeting. On his part, Prime Minister Khan tweeted, “The horrific vigilante attack on factory in Sialkot & the burning alive of Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I am overseeing the investigations & let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law. Arrests are in progress.”

These are appropriate responses to the gruesome murder; and they would have appeared comforting were it not for the support that the violent religious extremists get from the powers that be.

Consider this gem from Pakistan Defence Minister Pervez Khattak: “You know the reasons [behind this incident] too. They are kids. There is Islamic faith. There is a lot of thinking. They get spirited, emotional. They do [bad] things. This does not mean ‘this was the result of that action’.”

After explaining the general context, he talked about the recent outrage, “The boys gathered there, raised the slogan of Islam, said that this [Diyawadanage’s] action was against Islam. They got enraged; the incident happened suddenly. But this doesn’t mean that everything [in Pakistan] has gone wrong.”

Almost absolving his own government of its culpability, the Minister exhorted and lectured the media to educate people. The media should not just be focused on collecting advertisement revenue.

It is quite evident that Khattak made a remark similar to the one Mulayam Singh Yadav made years ago in which the latter sought to downplay rape, saying that “boys make mistakes, for which they shouldn’t be hanged”. Khattak’s statement, however, is worse than that of Yadav’s. The Pakistani Minister said, “In a moment of religious fervour, I will too get impassioned. I can also do something wrong, but that doesn’t mean that Pakistan is hurtling towards destruction.”

Four points need to be made here. First, a top Pakistan Federal Minister sees the lynching as a normal occurrence—perhaps bad, but not something to be overly worried about. This is the normalisation of Islamist barbarism in the country.

Second, Khattak is not an exception, the only Islamist in the Cabinet. The entire government—indeed the entire system—is jihad-compliant. The Pakistani Prime Minister himself is often—not unjustifiably—called “Taliban Khan”. For too long he has supported religious extremists. A recent decision was to lift the ban on the jihadist outfit Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). TLP supporters have been accused of having worked up the mob that slaughtered Diyawadanage.

Diyawadanage was a Christian. He, according to a report in the Time magazine, “had merely removed from factory machinery the stickers of an extreme right-wing party that featured Quranic verses, ahead of a visit by international clients. Seeing this as desecration, the mob dragged him out, beat him to death and set his body on fire”. TLP is that party.

Third, it is not just the youngsters who get swayed by religious sentiments; even elders do, as Khattak confessed. And there is no shame in it.

Fourth, the Pakistani establishment’s problem is not just ethical (finding nothing unconscionable in a lynching case) but also epistemological: they don’t realise that when a Federal Minister, on his own admission, can be swayed by religious fervour to the extent of committing a crime, destruction has already happened.

As for the comparison between the situations in India and in Pakistan in the context of religious extremism, often made by liberals, we can find some comfort in the fact that in our case the problem is not systemic. One needs to be dangerously sanguine, however, to believe that the situation in our country will not deteriorate further.

Ravi Shanker Kapoor is a freelance journalist