By Umer Tariq
Inciting murder in the name of religion is not uncommon in this country. In fact there is a long list of people who have been killed only in the recent few years in the name of religion. The murderers in most cases are glorified as heroes like in the case of Mumtaz Qadri who killed the Punjab governor Salman Taseer. Qadri was sentenced to death and subsequently hanged in February last year; his funeral was attended by thousands of people. A grand mausoleum was constructed in the outskirts of Islamabad where Qadri is buried; the mausoleum is visited by thousands of ‘devotees’. In the recent NA-120 by polls in Lahore, backed by the newly formed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, independent candidate Azhar Husain Rizvi bagged 7130 votes finishing third. Rizvi’s campaign posters and banners praised the executed Mumtaz Qadri. The Election Commission of Pakistan recently allotted the election symbol of ‘crane’ to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and the party now plans to contest in the general elections scheduled next year, a development considered concerning by many.
After the recent controversy surrounding the ‘amendment’ to the Elections Act 2017 which ended up affecting a Khatm-i-Naboowat declaration public office holders are required to make, social media posts have surfaced inciting murder of some politicians. A post on social networking website Facebook purportedly by a member of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan in fact went viral on Facebook (now removed) and was shared by thousands of people. The screenshot of the said post was shared by many on Twitter with a number of users tagging Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to bring the murder threats to his knowledge. During Friday’s address in the National Assembly the Interior Minister did touch on the topic which is an encouraging development. Speaking in the National Assembly, he said “Another thing people do is give out fatwas about who can be murdered — that is not for individuals to decide, only the state can decide such matters. No individual has the right to do that.”
The unchecked hate mongering and murder threats via social media platforms is a serious development and one that must be nipped in the bud. Apart from legal action against such elements; religious figures, politicians and media must also play their role and confront this challenge upfront.