A mob in Pakistan tortured, killed and then torched a Sri Lankan accused of blasphemy over certain posters he allegedly removed.
Priyantha Diyawadana, a Sri Lankan national who worked as the general manager of a factory at industrial engineering firm Rajco Industries in Sialkot, Punjab, was attacked by a violent mob on Friday.
In horrific videos shared on social media, Diyawadana can be seen thrown to the ground, where hundreds of people started tearing his clothes, hitting him violently. He was tortured to death and then his body was burned. Dozens of people in the crowd can also be seen taking selfies with his corpse.
The incident began when rumors emerged that Diyawadana, who had been the plant manager for seven years, had taken down a poster bearing words from the Quran. In the morning, a crowd began to gather at the gates of the factory and by early afternoon they had charged into the factory and seized Diyawadana.
Deputy Police Commissioner Mohammed Murtaza said: “Due to the renovation of the factory building, some posters have been removed from the wall. They may have desecrated posters bearing the name of the Prophet Muhammad. Maybe the manager got lynched because of it.
He added: “Unfortunately, I cannot affirm or deny anything at the moment. The alibi used for the murder is blasphemy, but the cause of the murder appears personal and targeted. The problem is under investigation. “
Murtaza said at least 50 people had been arrested and more arrests were likely as police scanned footage of the scene. Amnesty International said it was “deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching and murder of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot, allegedly on a charge of blasphemy”.
Pakistan, an Islamic state, has notoriously draconian blasphemy laws, which carry the death penalty. Laws are often used against religious minorities, and defendants are sometimes lynched before being found guilty in court. The culture of fear surrounding blasphemy cases means that judges are often too afraid to find the accused other than guilty.
One of Pakistan’s most infamous blasphemy cases is that of Christian Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death in 2010 after being accused of blasphemy by her colleagues. Almost a decade later, she was acquitted after strong international pressure.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the violence in Sialkot. “The horrific self-defense attack on the Sialkot factory and the [killing] from [a] The Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I oversee the investigations and make no mistake, all those responsible will be punished with all the rigor of the law. The arrests are in progress, ”he said. tweeted.
But some critics have linked the incident to a recent shift by the Khan government in its policies towards Pakistan’s hardline Islamic group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
The TLP was banned by the Khan government and declared an activist organization. However, after TLP supporters sparked deadly protests in Lahore in October, killing at least six police officers, the government agreed to lift the organization’s ban. In one of the videos from the Sialkot scene, two of the instigators of the violence refer to TLP slogans to justify their actions against Diyawadana.
Many fear that incidents of violence linked to alleged cases of blasphemy and mob lynching could escalate as a result. Last week, a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was set on fire and police vehicles set on fire after officers refused to hand over a person accused of blasphemy to the crowd.
Hussain Haqqani, an academic at the Hudson Institute and a former ambassador to the United States, said Pakistan had ceded and reinforced extremist Islamists for years. “The state apparatus supports those who commit violence in the name of religion instead of protecting the victims. It was only recently that the government struck a deal with TLP, which was responsible for the killing of police officers during violent protests, ”he said.
He added: “The rise of the TLP has normalized the killing over allegations of blasphemy. What were once random incidents is now becoming an epidemic. “