To me, yes. Initially I felt like writing a detailed article on this on my blog but then decided against it because I thought that the act of doing so would leave me depressed for several days.
In fact the despair that our current state of affairs engenders, makes me avoid writing on current issues and focus only on academic debates. However, I think I ought to briefly share why I think that this incident is not a total aberration and reflects what we are collectively capable of even while in an act of prayer (most people who were a part of this incident must have been fasting):
— I have keenly followed the outpouring of disgust on this incident in the country’s media and have noticed that most of the dismay has been caused by two factors: One, that the two brothers were most likely innocent and two, that the method adopted to kill them was very brutal. Which implies that if these two teenagers or kids (as the civilized world calls and treats the people of their age) were guilty and were killed in a more ‘humane’ manner –e.g. by being shot or slaughtered ala Taliban- that would be deemed acceptable. Hence, a society that finds such dispensation of mob-justice acceptable is, to say the least, perverse, which is unmoved by killing in its midst of those who it judges guilty of a crime. As we have seen the range of such crimes in Pakistan can be vast and fungible and can include from a robbery to a love marriage against the established norms, an act of praying by an Ahmedi, an alleged blasphemy by a Christian, belonging to a different sect or ethnic group etc. Hence it is the mistakenness and the imagery of the act that has disturbed most people and not the intent.
— I have carefully seen the footages of the scene. The huge crowd on the scene, as a rich population sample of one of our large and relatively urbanized cities, is a representative cross section of our society. It comprises well-off and poor, educated and utterly illiterate, people clad in jeans and dhotis, people from all Muslim sects (I am sure), devoutly religious and moderate (I am sure), bearded and clean-shaven etc. However, a majority of them can be clearly seen to be in unison on the fact that the justice is being done and some are even shouting that it is being videotaped and will be run on GEO TV as an example. If you hear the voices carefully, you would note that the whole act, which most of them clearly find orgasmic, is being taped for later viewing with glee and for propagation.
— The act is consistent with the beliefs of a large number of our middle and upper classes even though they have personally never raised a finger on someone. If we believe that people (Jews, Christians, Ahmedis, Muslim sects and who not) deserve to and should be killed for religious differences and political variances then why not these two kids for a crime that the crowd thought they had committed? Has there been any collective and united uproar on the mainly poor people being killed in Karachi? No, most of us –though not a part of the violence- are counting their dead and keeping the score. This is Karachi and not Kurram Agency where appalling acts of barbarism are being perpetrated for the past several years
— It is frightening to even imagine what our society would become if we were all allowed to live by our prejudices, our revolting sense of moral superiority, our notions of justice and religion, and our view of minorities. Luckily our politicians and generals cannot allow that to happen because firstly they need a territory which they can govern and plunder and secondly they have to be mindful of how the rest of the world views us because they/we badly need the rest of the world. Hence they govern, and we live, by the force of opportunism and not by the imperative of justice. Now that CJSC as taken notice, the same opportunism is patent in our rulers’ handling of the affair just as it is in their response to the floods.
— This is not an isolated incident. There have been many like this, some of them in large cities like Karachi. What makes this one stand out is that it has been intentionally filmed in a very elaborate manner with graphic details and that the CJSC’s Suo Moto notice has set the ball rolling beyond anybody’s control. There have been incidents, known to all those who matter, of killing innocent people, of women being raped in Public and then walked naked through the streets etc. For example the rage witnessed on the killing of 90 Ahmedis in Lahore was far less than what surrounds the aftermath of this incident. I give the example of Ahmedis killing because it is somewhat similar in that it was not an abrupt and sudden act of terrorism where all you are left with is to deal with havoc caused by an explosion or two in an instant. That too was a protracted drama watched in its details by most of us and the victims’ innocence was not even remotely suspect. Similarly most of us did not seem to mind when, some time ago, a famous TV host urged the killing of Ahmedis on his show, leading to the murder of two innocent members of the community in Karachi.
Such acts are symptomatic of a deep-rooted barbarism that now afflicts our society. This barbarism or extremism cannot be ripped up on a selective basis. To me ‘intolerance’ is the word that best defines our society and our biggest problem. The growth of intolerance over the more recent decades of our existence has outstripped that of economy, literacy, population, corruption, graft, nepotism and everything else. What about the generation that is now growing up in the climate of such extreme intolerance and prejudice? To what extent will they carry it? (This reminds me of the about ten-year-old child who can be seen, in the video, taking his strike on the, by then dying, brothers.) That we are so intolerant and vicious as a human society is probably not an American/Jewish/Indian conspiracy. Or is it?
The only way to grow beyond this state of affairs is through sincere introspection. Hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and pointing fingers at the rest of world, for their real or perceived failings, will not do.