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Vigilante mob violence

Muhammad Asif

This project aims to explore the causes of vigilante violence in Pakistan. Such type of violence has been observed in many countries like the USA, Africa, China, Australia, South Asia, and early modern Europe etc. This project aims to answer the question why people take the law into their own hands. More specifically, the research considers how vigilante violence relates to culture by asking the following questions: under what conditions do people consider their self-help or self-justice strategies better than relying on law enforcement i.e. police? To what extent is vigilante violence related to the distribution of norms that favor the use of violence as an appropriate and righteous means to settle disputes or to do justice? And under what conditions does such culture emerge that supports acts of vigilante violence?

Another series of questions is related to the relationship between vigilante violence and police legitimacy: what is the relationship between acts of vigilante violence and (perceptions of) police forces being unable to safeguard public rights and to control public and moral order? And how does the public perceive police legitimacy when they consider the police unable to placate their grievances in the hour of need? Furthermore, what are the causes of vigilante violence other than eroding police performance and an increasing gap between the police and the public at large?

Both qualitative and quantitative methods will be applied to attain an understanding of the phenomenon of vigilante violence. Interviews with local elites and common people will help to develop an understanding about the complexity of the relationship between police legitimacy and vigilantism as well as of the causes of vigilantism other than fragile police legitimacy, notably the distribution of norms about self-help. The findings of the study will support the development of feasible policy prospects to overcome/minimize occurrences of vigilante violence.