The cold-blooded murder of Professor Khalid Hameed of Government Sadiq Egerton College at the hands of a student of the same college is another example of the growing intolerance and aggression in our society. Professor Khalid is not the first one, who fell prey to religious extremism. Former governor Punjab Salman Taseer’s murder at the hands of his own bodyguard in January 2011 and lynching of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, by an angry mob in April 2017 are two of the most egregious examples of similar incidents.
After the assassination of Salman Taseer, we didn’t do anything to stop religious extremism, which was spreading like a wildfire. Although the murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged in 2016, it was not the most fitting response. Execution of Qadri was a punishment commensurate to the crime he had committed, but he did not act as a lone wolf. Therefore, his elimination was not enough to crush the rising intolerance in the society. What was needed was a comprehensive plan to address the root cause of the rising aggression, intolerance and hatred. The misuse of religion by mullahs and militant groups, spreading hatred from religious platforms, should have been the primary target. But our apathetic behavior towards the roots of the problem and hesitation to curb the militant groups and the mullahs resulted in another grave tragedy: lynching of Mashal Khan by his fellow students.
The video, in which an angry and a religiously charged mob was beating the poor boy with sticks and bricks, showed that the mob was enjoying it. By brutally killing a fellow student, they had proved their righteousness and they were content. This is where a sane mind, a person having a human heart, realizes that the society has become unlivable. Adding to the disappointment, a protest at the Islamabad Press Club, against the vicious act, attracted less than 500 people, while 200,000 people participated in the final rites of Mumtaz Qadri. These numbers speak volumes about the exponential growth of religious extremism in our society.
Mashal’s lynching was another opportunity for the government and law-enforcement agencies to reflect on their ways of dealing with religious extremism and the aggression and intolerance entrenched in the minds of most people. But the opportunity was wasted again. No policies were introduced to curb the violent and intimidating mullahs, who have corrupted the young minds with their full of hatred speeches. No steps were taken to stop the use of religious platforms to spread intolerance and violence.
The consequences of the reluctance of the government to take action against the people who are spreading hatred, and the failure to take steps to promote the peaceful aspects of Islam, despite several events of extreme violence in the name of religion, are that people like Professor Khalid Hameed are killed by their own students. In the video that emerged following the murder of the professor, the murderer, Khateeb Hussain, showed no remorse. The violent and angry youth expressed his satisfaction after murdering his teacher with a knife.
Now the question is “is the government not capable enough to curb religious extremism? Or the government’s reluctance to take necessary steps is because it has been using the same elements to do its dirty work within and outside the country?” We cannot ignore the direct link of the existence of extremist outfits in the country and the government’s support of them and the rapid mainstreaming of violence, hatred and intolerance in the society. A military crackdown would be helpful in eliminating the extremist outfits, but what would be the appropriate way of dealing with the violent mindset? The future of the country will be defined by the way the government responds to the murder of Professor Khalid Hameed. Conviction of Khateeb Hussain will not be enough. The government needs to take serious steps to address the violent and intolerant mindset.