Not that there is any doubt about Pakistan being a lawless country, especially when it comes to the rights of religious minorities and other suppressed communities within the society, the Gojra incident is probably just one of the hundreds of incidents that make us wonder if there is any chance or even hope of any redemption anytime soon or not. It’s been eight years. Yes. You read that right. Eight years since over 100 houses were burnt to ashes in the city of Gojra, in Toba Tek Singh district and not a single person has till date been convicted. Nine people died in the incident, including old and youth, men and women. But there’s not a single person convicted as yet. Let that sink in for a moment.
What happened was that a rumor broke in the city that certain Mukhtar Masih, Talib Masih and Imran Masih had desecrated the copies of Koran at a wedding ceremony late in the month of July 2009. A case was filed against the alleged perpetrators under Section 295-B of the Pakistan penal code that deals with the issues of blasphemy against Islam, Quran and Muhammad (PBUH). Despite the fact that there is already a death penalty in place for the crime, people have taken the law into their own hands on numerous occasions and lynched and murdered the accused without any legal proceedings whatsoever. Recently, a mob lynched a bright youth Mashal Khan at a Mardan university and later another person barely survived a mob in Chitral.
As it happened, in Gojra too, the case had already been registered yet the angry mobs attacked the Christian community living in the town of Gojra, on August 1 2009, and set ablaze at least 100 houses, killing various people and forcing many to be displaced in the aftermath. After long protests by the community, finally, an FIR was registered in which the DPO and DCO of the district too were blamed for negligence. However, according to an Express Tribune report filed in 2013 – four years after the incident and four years prior to the writing of this piece – not a single person had been convicted in the case. It is pertinent to mention here that the number of the accused was around 900 people originally, out of which 70 were identified while 800 unidentified had been blamed for the incident. The report says that out of the 70 alleged in the First Information Report, 68 were granted pre-arrest bails while two were granted bails afterwards.
Later, the 185 witnesses who had submitted their reports before the court, one-by-one started withdrawing their statements as they were pressured by certain powerful people related to the perpetrators. Many of the witnesses have left the country while the others remain silent in the face of the adversity where they have no power on those involved in the heinous crime while the state, their supposed protector, seems to have colluded with the culprits as no action has ever been taken against those involved in murders or those threatening the witnesses with dire consequences in case they continue to stand before the mighty adversary.
9 people were killed that fated day in a town just a few miles from the capital of the province, Lahore. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah had stated at the time of the incident that there was no blasphemy actually committed according to the reports received by the government but certain ‘anti-state elements’ acted on their own to avenge something that had never taken place. He’s still the Law Minister of this province and was removed only once for a few days during all this period. The province is being ruled by the same person even today: Shehbaz Sharif. But do we have a decision to the case? No. Wonder what the military courts were set up for if terrorists could remain at large without even being bothered by the state and its security agencies. Not that there was ever a doubt. But such incidents clearly manifest the already settled matter of Pakistan being a lawless country.
Author’s Bio: The author is an editor and writes on political and social issues. He writes for Dunya Blogs, The FridayTimes, Fasaadi.com and Humsub.com.pk. He can be reached at @thealiwarsi