Pakistan mob lynches Sri Lankan factory manager over ‘blasphemy’, Imran Khan calls it ‘a day of shame’

LAHORE: A top Sri Lankan garment factory executive was beaten to death and his body burnt by supporters of a radical Islamist party in Pakistan’s Punjab province on Friday over allegations of blasphemy in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

A Punjab Police official told that Priyanta Kumara was working as a general manager in a garment factory in Sialkot district, about 100 km from Lahore.

“Mr. Kumara allegedly tore up a poster of the radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) inscribed Quranic verses and threw it in the dustbin. An Islamic party poster was pasted on the wall adjacent to Kumara’s office A. Some workers of the factory saw him removing the poster and spread the word in the factory.”

Hundreds of people outraged by the blasphemy incident started gathering outside the factory from the surrounding areas. Most of them were TLP activists and supporters.

Also Read : More than 100 people arrested for killing of Sri Lankan national by mob in Pakistan

“The mob dragged the suspect (Sri Lankan national) from the factory and severely tortured him. After he succumbed to his wounds, the mob burnt his body, before the police reached there,” the officer said. “

Several videos were circulated on social media which showed hundreds of people gathered around the body of the Sri Lankan national. They were raising TLP slogans.

The Imran Khan government recently lifted the ban on the TLP after it signed a secret pact following which its chief Saad Rizvi and over 1,500 activists accused of terrorism were released from jail.

The TLP, in turn, ended its week-long sit-in in Punjab after withdrawing its demand for the expulsion of the French ambassador over the issue of blasphemous cartoons in France.

100 suspects arrested
Late on Friday evening, Punjab Police said that they have arrested 100 suspects after identifying them through video footage.

“We have arrested 100 suspects allegedly involved in the lynching of a Sri Lankan national on terrorism and other charges,” Inspector General of Police (Punjab) Rao Sardar Ali Khan said in a statement.

“More arrests are being made and those involved in this gruesome incident will not be spared,” he said.

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farooq Habib said in a tweet: “We are investigating. The main culprit named Farhan Idris has been arrested. 100 others are in custody.”

He added: “Condemn the horrific mob attack on the manager of a Sri Lankan factory that was burnt alive in Sialkot.”

The incident has drawn widespread condemnation from all walks of life.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a tweet: “The gruesome attack on a factory in Sialkot and burning alive a Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I am overseeing the investigation and make no mistake, hold all those responsible.” Will be punished in the fullest severity of the law. Arrests are on.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan President Arif Alvi tweeted: “The Sialkot incident is certainly very sad and shameful, and not religious in any way. Islam is a religion that deliberately set the guns of justice instead of mob lynching Huh.”

In Colombo, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sugeshwar Gunaratne told The Associated Press that his embassy in Islamabad was verifying details of the incident with Pakistani authorities.

“Sri Lanka hopes that Pakistani authorities will take necessary action to ensure investigation and justice,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Religious Harmony, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, said the killing of the factory manager on charges of blasphemy was “regrettable” and “condemnable”.

He said the Pakistan Ulema Council strongly condemned the killing of the Sri Lankan national, adding that those responsible would be arrested and justice would be served.

Ashrafi said the country has laws that deal with blasphemy and by taking the law into their own hands, “the attackers have also insulted our laws”.

“Those who killed the Sri Lankan manager in Sialkot have committed an un-Islamic, inhuman act,” Ashrafi said. He said he was “ashamed” of the act.

Condemning the incident, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International called for an impartial investigation.

“Pakistan: Amnesty International is deeply concerned by the disturbing lynching and murder of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot due to an alleged blasphemy allegation. The authorities must immediately conduct an independent, impartial and speedy investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Pakistan has strict laws against defaming Islam, including the death penalty, and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle personal disputes in the Muslim-majority country.

The US government advisory panel report said that Pakistan used more blasphemy laws than any other country in the world.

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