Sialkot lynching: What would Freud think

Published: August 25, 2010

Mughees and Muneeb, the brothers who were killed in Sialkot.

Watch the gruesome Youtube clip of the Sialkot lynching incident of the brothers, Mughees and Muneeb, and you will wonder why no one tried to stop the demonic perpetrators.

What brought on the animalistic instinct of the executors and the crowds of wide-eyed onlookers? Who were the crowd around the two bleeding, flailing bodies, as the young men were thrashed repeatedly and mercilessly?

As reported in a daily English paper, one of the accused said that the DPO, Waqar Chohan, present on the scene goaded the accused into partaking in the violence by saying “Go ahead and kill both of them. The police will claim responsibility for the killings and declare it a police encounter.”

But even if Chohan didn’t give his verbal approval, his presence during the lynching along with the other cops provided a silent nod of approval for the murderers to carry out their fury.

The police’s indifferent presence merely fueled the fire.

Acts of murder and violence carried out by wrathful mobs have been taking place for centuries. The French Revolution, the brutality that followed through the partition of India and Pakistan, groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi gangs, religious fundamentalist groups, mobs of ordinary citizens who raise bloody murder against their governments, against other rival groups, against minorities – the list is endless.

Given this horrifying case, the question really is this: Why in God’s name did no one try to stop the atrocity from taking place? Why weren’t Mughees and Muneeb rescued?

Scottish journalist, Charles Mackay, in his book, ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’, says:

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

From a psychological perspective, men resorting to ‘herd behaviour’ begin replicating acts that the rest of the ‘herd’ is carrying out.

For an individual, being part of a mob, means having a sort of sub-conscious security that no harm will befall him as he is one with the mob.

Sigmund Freud’s crowd behaviour theory sheds light on how when individuals act collectively as a group, their enthusiasm is increased, leading to a breakdown in individual thinking.

This allows collective thinking and a collective approach to overrule. Therefore, the individual stands blinded. He is stripped naked of his self-awareness for those fleeting minutes or hours and this is when he allows himself to be ‘led’ by the herd.

Regarding mob psychology and crowd behaviour, the theories are numerous and intriguing. Once studied, the motives behind heinous acts of violence on innocent people by mobs can be better understood.

Regarding Mughees and Muneeb, justice must follow through swiftly. Or else, tomorrow other victims like Mughees and Muneeb can fall prey to acts of violence in an already ruptured society.


Sonya Rehman

A graduate from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism who works as a freelance journalist for The Express Tribune and various publications in Lahore.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • baroojj

    hi, soniya we need u seriousely, plz think about these brothers, if u need any help u can email me i,will sapport u im in uk, bradford.Recommend

  • Fahad Baig

    Interesting clash of mob behaviour and collective consciousness [utopian in this case] presented by Ms Rehman, which, indeed, leaves one major question in everyone’s mind (as put forward by the writer)…. “Why in God’s name did no one try to stop the atrocity from taking place?”

    Well, in my opinion, we are in a country where people believe that its better to defy God than to defy the police. In this case, the involvement of police is clear… There were silent orders by the DPO, which were carried out…

    Now coming to the question, yes, someone could have stepped forward to rescue Mughees and Muneeb, but he would have met the same fate.

    Yes the problem is also in the police department, but its not just the police that is to be blamed.

    The writer has jotted down parts of theories relating to herd behaviour and, at a point, wrote “…begin replicating acts that the rest of the ‘herd’ is carrying out”.

    Quran tells us to stop the evil with our hands. If its not possible, stop it with tongue (use words to stop the evil) and if that too is not possible, one should at least consider it wrong…and this is the lowest degree of true faith.
    This shows that we have no Ieeman (faith).

    Those helpless teenagers needed help from the hopeless people. Yes, they are hopeless… We are hopeless! We are silent spectators… with no conscience…

    (Bringing in Islam because we are Muslims, even if pseudo Muslims.Sorry if I offend anyone)Recommend

  • Maria

    Hello Sonia, I also want that the police officers that who were involved in this incident and the people who were beating them should also be given such type of punishment that the upcoming generation would know that cruel people always reach to their terrible death, I honestly want to do something for them…I am from MultanRecommend

  • adil

    makes sense. a mob is usually led by no more than two or three people. imagine the ferocity of those two or three who’ started with the torture, no one from ordinary could’ve stepped in. and thn it is imperative tht the leading torturers were authority figures. the only way to disperse the crowd at tht moment was aerial firing. unfortunately it seems the cops had a vested interest in the death of the boys. we need to find out why.Recommend

  • Khadimhussainsubhpoto

    It is hardly believable that man can go to such lows, having no value of human life. It’s a height of cruelty! It is distressing and embarrassing that our own society has become shamelessly densitized where we find people enjoying and encouraging violence and bloodshed. The demonic perpetrators and the conscience-less onlookers are equal partners in this heineous crime. They must be given exemplary punishment. With this heart-rending incident, the image of police has further worsened. This is why People don’t trust them. Such devilish attitude of the policemen present there speaks volumes of the performance of police department in our country. It’s high time for the government to purge the departments of such black sheeps to save their image from further deterioration. They are supposed to do it without further delay so that the recurrence of such horrible incidents may be avoided in days to come. Recommend

  • Sudrish Khan

    Sad, very sad. The video sends shivers down my spine and draws me to tears. If the mob is being called brutal for performing this inhuman act, why not mention the numb onlookers who forgot all the humanity and who was coward enough to make a video? A HAFIZ got beaten to death in front of a crowd, why did the sky not fall?Recommend

  • Haroon Riaz

    Well mademoiselle, I always say this:
    “Beware of men in groups. They are always trouble.”Recommend

  • Wasim Ali

    Sonya Rehman,
    Thank you for your article on this cruel indcident. It exposes that how much injustice in our society. It also shows that there is no rule of law in Pakistan & these matters have no significance for state, our politicians, our law & order maintianig institues, except Supreme Court of Pakistan.
    Thanks to CJ Iftikhar Ch. that he took suo moto action on it. Then federal & Punjab goverment are compelled to do something.
    All animalistic action like this only because of people’s trust deficit on institutions, politicians & specially on police, which is the most corrupt & uneducated institution filled with rascal.
    Police is the very first culprit of this incidents, becasue they provided opportunity to the mob to do this & did totally against their duty & responsbility.
    Please set a best example to provide justic. It will set the dimentions of society, state, government institutions & this will be the cause of police reform.

    Wasim Ali

  • Eeman

    Without being offensive, how many more topics will we have on this lynching? I’d say let’s move on, make a monument on the place of their death, and learn from the mistake. Recommend

  • Farheen

    I totally agree. Apart from the whole talk on economic frustration and defunct legal system being at the root of this lynching their also needs to be a phsycholgical analysis of mob mentality and how individuals in a mob mirror the collective anger and agressiveness which perhaps as individuals they do not possess.

    Great read :)Recommend

  • Tony Khan

    For nearly a century we have heard Ahmadis being called wajib-ul-qatal and what did we do? We have watched Ahmadis being slaughtered just like the Sialkot crowd watched the horrible lynching. Recommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    The whole crowd should be punished,,,,not only the ones beating…..Just watching a free violence movie and taking snaps from their mobiles…..HUH,,,,
    Insensitive culture….Recommend

  • Rzza Bakir

    Improvement Sonya! I see growth in your work, really nice analysis on the incident.
    And I agree that such things have been happening for a long time, in fact just a year ago the same incident happened in Karachi where two thieves were burnt alive. The thing is people did not respond the way they have in this incident. Reason I guess is because people know the boys were innocent.Recommend

  • Nadeem Khalid

    The crowd was watching not two innocent kids but two murderers/dacoits being beaten to death….quick and speedy justice was being meted out in their opinion, and I guess for want of anything better to do they just stood there enjoying the sickening spectacle. Simply incomprehensible! unacceptable and unforgivable behaviour under any circumstances !Recommend

  • Hamza Malik

    It is so inhumane and sad. Words fail me when I think about it. Excellent article Sonya. Keep up the good work. Just give this a read:

    Look at how our own politicians have ended up eroding our little belief in justice in this country.Recommend

  • fatima

    it indicates insensitivity & numbness on part of the nation- a sign of extreme depression though. All these ongoing crisis & our brutal response to them are also indicators of Almighty,s avenge. Y on earth did the worst flood in living history happened in Pakistan. Those who are still unaffected should beg for his forgiveness and surrender before him, apart from managing the chaos in every possible way.Recommend

  • Jassem

    It is alleged that those inviduals in the forefront leading the cruel beating of the two brothers are in fact policemen in plain clothes. Who will ascertain this aspect, since it speaks of the dire need to reform and restructure the police seriously and speedily. Recommend

  • KM

    Injustices will continue unless we reciprocate with relevant measure or punishments. Why does Islam say eye for an eye? Have people tried to research on this? Today, the entire Far East, and the Middle East uses the measure blatantly, and look at their crime rate, as well as citizen’s commitment to their society. As long as we will keep shying from harshest of punishments, our society will forever keep living with the stigma of injustices and animal instincts, as people know that they can get away with just anything.Recommend

  • Mustafa

    What we are doing with HUMANS?
    Good Article Sonya. Killing of innocent is the killing of entire society,and this inhumanely & barbarically manner. This act could not be imagine in any Islamic or even in human society. Even, no film maker can think of this extremely brutal scene in his film. This incident will classify an act less than animality & animal liberation. We are even not allowed any way to kill animals in that way the innocents were.I must mention ISLAM says at EID-UL-AZHA when we are going to slaughter our animals, the KNIFE/CUTTING TOOL should be fast/good enough to kill/finish the animal in due time. NOT A PROUD PAKISTANIRecommend

  • SadafFayyaz

    and the words of Firduas awan add fuel to the fire….Recommend

  • Nasira Parveen

    It’s really heart-wrenching incident. I think due to carelessness of police and other law enforcement agencies it happened.Recommend

  • usman

    shame on Punjab police……
    muneeb pass in 9th class with 342 marks.Recommend

  • Jamal Elias

    OMG, check this out: Maureen Dowd has been poaching your ideas! So impressive that a Pakistani woman from Taliban infested Pakistan with a big degree from a big college and a self made family can achieve such influence. So proud of you sweetie, so shoo proud.Recommend

  • Khadija

    Great perspective Sonya!Recommend

  • Noman

    Whatever the “explanation,” ‘herd instinct,” “herd thinking,” such brazen brutality in cold blood is unthinkable in todays supposedly civilized world, or its current version in Pakistan. And to imagine this was watched as a spectacle and egged on not just by laymen is simply horrendous and makes ones flesh creep. Imagine this happening to a near one! While a lot can be said and has been said, two critical and simple questions remain, why would no one dare to stop such bloody vigilantism? Would justice be served? Pakistans collective conscience cannot rest till all those who took part in this macabre ritual of death are brought to justice. Though that is barely a consolation for the gross travesty of justice, morality, humanity. Recommend