Sri Lanka’s Parliament condemns lynching of Lankan national in Pak; PM Rajapaksa seeks justice
Colombo: Sri Lanka’s Parliament and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday condemned the brutal lynching of a Sri Lankan national in Pakistan and hoped that Prime Minister Imran Khan will keep his commitment to bring all those involved to justice and ensure the safety of the rest of the island nation’s expat workers.
In a grisly incident on Friday, Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, who was in his 40s, was lynched and his body burnt by angry supporters of a hardline Islamist party which attacked a garment factory in Pakistan’s Punjab province over blasphemy allegations.
Diyawadana, from Sri Lanka’s Kandy, was working as the general manager of the garment factory in Sialkot district, some 100 kms from Lahore.
The Sri Lankan government and the Opposition were united in urging the Sri Lankan authorities to have talks with Islamabad to ensure the safety of the rest of the Sri Lankan workers in Pakistan.
Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Rajapaksa said: “Shocking to see the brutal and fatal attack on Priyantha Diyawadana by extremist mobs in #Pakistan. My heart goes out to his wife and family. #SriLanka and her people are confident that PM @ImranKhanPTI will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice”.
Khan said in a tweet: “The horrific vigilante attack on a factory in Sialkot & the burning alive of a Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I am overseeing the investigations & let there be no mistake, all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law. Arrests are in progress.”
Pakistan President Arif Alvi tweeted: “The Sialkot incident is definitely very sad & shameful, and not religious in any way whatsoever. Islam is a religion that established cannons of deliberative justice rather than mob lynchings.”
“We are glad that the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had very strongly condemned this brutal act,” Sri Lankan education minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament.
Diywadana had graduated from the University of Peradeniya in Kandy. He came from a poor background, Parliament was told.
He was murdered by the supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline Islamist party, which was previously banned.
“Mr Kumara allegedly tore a poster of the hardline TLP in which Quranic verses were inscribed and threw it in the dustbin. The poster of the Islamist party was pasted on the wall adjoining the office of Kumara. A couple of factory workers saw him removing the poster and spread the word in the factory,” according to a police official in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Hundreds of men, enraged over the “blasphemy” incident, started gathering outside the factory from adjoining areas. Most of them were activists and supporters of the TLP.
“The mob dragged the suspect (the Sri Lankan national) from the factory and severely tortured him. After he succumbed to his wounds, the mob burnt his body before police reached there,” the official said.
Several videos were circulated on social media showing hundreds of men gathered at the site surrounding the body of the Sri Lankan national. They were chanting slogans of the TLP.
The Pakistan government led by Prime Minister Khan had recently lifted a ban on the TLP after signing a secret agreement with it after which its chief Saad Rizvi and over 1,500 activists accused of terrorism were released from jail.
The TLP in return had ended its week-long sit-in in Punjab after withdrawing its demand of expelling the French ambassador on the issue of blasphemous cartoons in France.
Late on Friday evening, Punjab Police said they have arrested 100 suspects, after identifying them through video footage.
“We have arrested 100 suspects allegedly involved in the lynching of the Sri Lankan national under terrorism and other charges,” Inspector General Police (Punjab) Rao Sardar Ali Khan said in a statement.
“More arrests are being made and those involved in this gory incident will not be spared,” he said.
Condemning the incident, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International demanded an impartial investigation.
“PAKISTAN: Amnesty International is deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching and killing of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot, allegedly due to a blasphemy accusation. Authorities must immediately conduct an independent, impartial and prompt investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.
“Today’s event underscores the urgency with which an environment that enables abuse and puts lives at risk must be rectified,” it said in a series of tweets.
Pakistan has extremely 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.
A US government advisory panel report says Pakistan used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world.
Mere allegations of blasphemy have triggered violence against minorities like Christians.
Several persons accused of committing blasphemy have been lynched in recent years.