Pakistan’s slide into hatred and a mob mindset

CommandEleven is breaking from its normal national security focus to post a commentary on the brutal murder of Mishal Khan at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan.

Mashal’s terrible and horrific murder in Mardan is another indication of how Pakistanis, since 1980, have been brainwashed by an obscurantist and extremist thought fueled by petrodollars.

How given the slightest provocation, these young men, supposedly educated, supposedly in University, supposedly more “educated” and more “aware” than those in Madrassas, who we blame so readily, can drop all pretensions of humanity and become a bunch of hyenas, tearing away at a dead carcass?

How educated lawyers and judges and urban society educated professionals, can eulogize Qadri the murderer, to sainthood?

How these purveyors of this evil use the Sacred Name of our Prophet PBUH and Islam to justify such barbarism?

How the use of highly controversial Blasphemy laws as instruments of legal punishment, promote lynch mob justice?

How we saw a TV anchor in 2011, pilloring then the late Governor Salman Taseer, showcasing his position as being “blasphemous” resulting in his murder, now smugly continues her work, hijab and all, shriekingly arrogant, unrepentant and unquestioned?

How we see more and more of this terrible evil manifesting itself everyday in all walks if life, especially in political parties, in our electronic media and in our education?

How anchors like Orya Maqbool Jan are allowed space on primetime electronic media to spew their invective day in and day out?

We see such madness taking place in the world. A Hindu mob lynching a so called beef eating Muslim, or the razing of an entire Christian neighbourhood in Lahore or this terrible act in Mardan and conclude that social and economic deprivation and misgovernance and loot and plunder by the rulers is behind this pent up anger and hatred. Partly true.

This deprivation of basic rights and exploitation certainly makes for fertile ground, seeded and fuelled by whatever ideology is closest to that society and makes most sense to it.

And generally the more violent and extreme and simplistic the message, the larger the number of people who rally around it.

Research indicates that hate filled ideologies and messages rally 10 times more adherents than those advocating peace and love.

In our case, given our highly religious inclination, any emotionally charged thought, enrobed in religious credentials immediately speaks to these people and mindset.

But the more dangerous and frightening phenomenon is the ever increasing number of people from economically affluent, western style educated and urban segments in Pakistan becoming a part of this mindset.

This belies the traditional belief, voiced earlier, that the poor, deprived and exploited are easier prey.

These affluent people are also driven by hatred and anger against symbols of what they perceive as enemies of their ideologies and because of their ability to influence other people, are far more dangerous.

In this particular case, this hatred and anger was driven by a religious ideology as interpreted by a certain religious sub sect, actively promoted and disseminated by Gen. Zia ul Haque. This thought gained much strength in the succeeding years, thanks to petrodollars and a fratricidal proxy war, especially targeting “liberal” ” secular”, thought, softer words for “Kafirs” and “Disbelievers” now pervading our lexicon.

And in this hatred and anger, no one is spared. People becoming a law unto themselves and manifesting in the horrors of Mardan and others in the years following the promulgation of the current Blasphemy laws.

At a behavioral level, The Stanford and Princeton University experiments clearly illustrate how group think and behaviour can lead people to commit terrible acts even without the crutches of a deeply held belief system. And given the added fuel of highly emotional belief or ideology, this group rage and behaviour can lead to unbelievable levels of cruelty.

The savage lynching of black slaves by the Klu Klux Klan, a group of white people, largely urban and well educated. The genocide of Hutus and Tutsis, the butchery one sees in India, Burma etc all point to how entire socities can go “rabid dog mad”.

In a society, deeply steeped in Religosity, dominating every aspect of one’s life, and given a distorted and misinterpreted version of religion, even a perception that it’s under threat or under attack, leads to this madness.

And the tragedy is that this not Islam, but barbarism at its worst, fuelled by an ideology of hatred, garbed in religious clothes !

If not checked or controlled, Our dangerous slide into a mob psychology induced society, manifesting violent public hatred and murder will result in widespread anarchy and uncontrollable bloodshed.

Perhaps in such tragic symbolism maybe “Mashal’s” name, which means a beacon of light, may enlighten our society towards tolerance and humanism.

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
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Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Advisor & Senior Analyst at CommandEleven
Haider Mehdi is the current Convener of The Strategy Study Group, founded by the late Col. S.G.Mehdi M.C, former Group Commander of Pakistan Army's Special Services Group (SSG). Haider, is a former Pakistan Army officer, corporate leader, management consultant, business trainer and serial entrepreneur. Currently based in North America, with deep interest in South Asian, Middle Eastern and Regional geopolitics.
Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
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