Acquiescence by silence: Mashal’s lynching and the reaction of political parties

All political parties have ceased to offer a different vision for the state and society. They are comfortable and in fact complicit in imposing uniformity

What should have been a day for the coming together of whole nation, and an hour of a strong show of solidarity and outrage, following Mashal’s brutal lynching the political parties, the religious, the conservatives, the progressives, considered it safe to stay silent. There are moments where nations need moral clarity and political courage and political parties, irrespective of them being part of government or not, should come forward and give that moral clarity and express the courage through their words. The best of our children had turned into monsters that day and devoured one of their own. Mashal was at university to get education, to broaden his thinking, but so were the other students. Mashal was killed and his fellow students, instead of following the beacon of education, turned into killers.

The outrage at the lynching was equaled only by the disillusion felt at what had made university students into that trigger-happy, mindless, fanatical mob. At this juncture, when the whole nation was feeling helpless and outraged, political leaders were nowhere to be seen. Political expediency and avoiding controversy were their main considerations instead of condemning, in unequivocal terms, the brutality of what had happened. This was the time for moral clarity and courage, and in a democracy it is to be expected from the political leaders. Democracy is not about forming governments; it is about expressing your opinion without any fear of repression and making the law supreme over any of personal and individual sentiments, emotions and whims.

Political parties are vehicles of democracy. They are meant to democratize the society and instill democratic values at grassroots level. We are supposedly living in a democracy, and people look up to their political leaders on days of such tragedies. But even the prime minister was silent for three days. When Mashal’s name was cleared and the police released its report that he has committed no blasphemy, then our prime minister was emboldened to raise an eyebrow about law of the land being challenged. Except Imran Khan who tweeted and called the tragedy what it was, all other political leaders were silent and many of them are silent till this day. The tweet of Imran Khan can’t be put forward as a strong moral condemnation. First, because the police force of KP has failed massively in saving Mashal despite them having enough time to respond. And second, the chief minister of his party and all senior leaders of his party were silent and didn’t bother to take immediate action against the culprits, the university administration and investigate why the police failed in saving Mashal’s life.

This silence, and half-hearted and late statements by political parties, force us to reframe the debate. All political parties have ceased to offer a different vision for the state and society. They are comfortable and in fact complicit in imposing uniformity on whole of the society. The project of manufacturing consent over certain issues has been owned wholeheartedly by all stakeholders of state. Only few in the society are willing to challenge that uniformity and present an alternative future. And the few people are left with few options. Because of acceptance of state’s rhetoric, narrative and policies by all political parties, few grey areas are left to the people. It is either acceptance of the state narrative or being damned by the state with all its might.

The state has been able to engineer consent by force, by propaganda and by incentivizing a particular kind of thinking for decades now. In that environment, political parties will voice a dissenting note at the cost of their vote bank and being labeled agents or worst, supporters of blasphemers. But this safe-playing on part of the political parties validates the fanaticism as supported and used by state for its purposes of silencing all dissent. In the myopia of political expediency, political parties lose all claims to moral courage and to presenting a different future.

One is forced to think that this war of ideas, and the contest for directing the state, is a war between the state and people – and very few people for that matter. Due to the indoctrination carried out by the state for decades, this time, it is many vs few; but nonetheless, those few also belong to that society, and are product of that society. Instead of silencing those brave voices, we will do better if we amplify those voices. It is my honest opinion that the evil doesn't lie in society, but is manufactured by state through decades of investment at every front. It is deadlier today because the dissemination of bigotry has been democratized by state and with access to technology the bigots can now, very easily, transform their theoretical bigotry into gruesome reality. Political parties, by taking a different stand and answering to the calls of moral duty, can offer an alternative to that evil. But this is another tragedy that the political parties have chosen silence.

Hurmat Ali Shah is a freelance writer interested in intersection of culture, politics and society. He can be reached at Follow him on Facebook 

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt