A Sri Lankan factory manager in Pakistan was on Friday lynched and set ablaze by a mob by supporters of an Islamist party who attacked the facility in Pakistan’s Punjab province alleging blasphemy, police said.
Condemning the act, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday that he would personally oversee an investigation into "the horrific vigilante attack" which he also called "a day of shame for Pakistan".
"Let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law," he tweeted.
What Led to the Incident
Priyantha Kumara was working as general manager of the garment factory in Sialkot district, about 100 km from Lahore.
Police officials told The New Indian Express that Kumara had allegedly torn a poster of the hardline Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in which Quranic verses were inscribed and threw it in the trash.
Several videos of the horrific act were shared on social media that showed a mob beating up the victim while chanting slogans against blasphemy and setting his car ablaze. Local reports said that many were seen taking selfies in front of the burning corpse.
Urgency to Rectify an Environment That Enables Abuse: Amnesty
Over 40 persons have been arrested so far, said the Punjab government spokesman Hassaan Khawar to reporters in Lahore. The police is scrutinising the CCTV footage of the incident as well.
A senior Pakistan official told AFP that Islamabad had been in touch with Sri Lankan diplomats over the incident "and have assured them that all those involved in the heinous crime will be brought to justice".
The horrific act drew a sharp reaction from the international human rights, NGO Amnesty International's South Asia, saying it is "deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching and killing" of the Sri Lankan over a "blasphemy accusation."
"Today's event underscores the urgency with which an environment that enables abuse and puts lives at risk must be rectified," said Amnesty International South Asia in a tweet under the hashtag "Sialkot.”
TLP: Not a Stranger to Lynching
The slogans that were chanted were typical of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) that has in the past held protests across the country.
It was only unbanned last month and its leader freed from detention after another period of civil unrest in which seven police officers were killed.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a far-right Islamic extremist political party in Pakistan was founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi in August 2015. Within months, the party gained popularity and grew to be the fifth largest party by 2018.
The TLP is known for its protests in opposition to any change to Pakistan's blasphemy law as it demands that Sharia be established as the fundamental law in Pakistan, through a gradual legal and political process.
On 12 April 2021, the founder’s son, Saad Hussain Rizvi was arrested by police ahead of a planned protest by the party on 20 April. The protest intended to pressure the Government of Pakistan to deport the French ambassador in Pakistan over the controversy of cartoons of Mohammad. Violent protests led to the death of two policemen and injured 340 persons, after which the party was banned on 15 April.
In April 2017, the party was involved in the lynching of a university student who was accused of posting blasphemous content online. Back in 2014, a Christian couple was lynched and burnt by them after being falsely accused of desecrating the Koran.