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Monday 8th August 2022 / 10 Muharram 1444

Sialkot tragedy: A new challenge for state

Accused talking to media after killing Priyantha Kumara (Photo Twitter)

Accused talking to media after killing Priyantha Kumara (Photo Twitter)

Pakistan has been grappling with the rule of law for many years, along with many other issues. Every few months or weeks, something happens somewhere in the country that puts the country’s dignity at stake.

A similar incident took place yesterday in Sialkot where an angry mob allegedly killed a Sri Lankan citizen on charges of blasphemy. A similar incident took place in Sialkot yesterday where an angry mob killed a Sri Lankan citizen on charges of blasphemy.

While this incident raises questions about the failure of institutions, it has pushed Pakistan further into disrepute globally.

Sialkot tragedy

Priyantha Kumara, general manager of production of Rajco Industries, was killed in Sialkot on Friday on charges of blasphemy. The enraged mob first brutally beat the victim and beat him to death with sticks, then dragged his body to the streets and set on fire on the road. The enraged people claimed that the victim was killed for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

Who was Priyantha Kumara?

Priyantha Kumara, a factory manager killed in Sialkot, was from Sri Lanka and is survived by his wife and two children. Kumara had been working in a factory in Sialkot for about 10 years and his family had been with him till a year ago. He was living in Sialkot but his wife and children had migrated from Pakistan to Sri Lanka a year ago.

Preliminary report

A report sent to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister of Punjab regarding the senseless killing of a Sri Lankan factory manager revealed that the workers targeted Priyantha Kumara for revenge for work theft and breach of discipline.

According to the police report, the factory employees attacked the manager under the pretext of stickers as the attacking accused were also dismissed for work theft and breach of discipline in the factory, and Priyantha Kumara was attacked for revenge.

According to the report, delegations of some foreign companies were to visit the factory so the owner had instructed to clean and remove the sticker on the machine while the victim tore the sticker on one machine while not removing it. The arrested suspects claim that there was religious writing on the sticker.

Police silence

A tragic aspect of the Sialkot tragedy was that the police, despite reaching the spot, failed to stop the killing of the manager.

By the time Sialkot police arrived at the scene, the crowd was out of control due to which more troops were called but by that time Priyantha Kumara had been killed and her body had been cremated. 

The police pretended to be a silent spectator, saying that the crowd was out of control, the people were many, and they were angry. Rescue 1122 could not do anything or any intervention to save the person.

Violence in the name of religion

This is not the first case of alleged blasphemy in Pakistan, there have been countless incidents before. However, in April 2017, Mashal Khan, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was brutally beaten by students of the same university in the form of an angry mob, accusing him of blasphemy. Even after his death, the allegations of blasphemy turned out to be false.

In 2014, an angry mob in Punjab tortured a Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama, to death for blasphemy and brutally set their bodies on fire.

In March 2013, an angry mob of thousands set fire to 150 houses, 18 shops, and two churches of the Christian community in Joseph Colony, Badami Bagh, Lahore. The incident happened after a Christian citizen was accused of blasphemy, but the investigation resulted in personal resentment.

In 2012, a mentally ill man was kicked out of a police station in Bahawalpur by an angry mob on charges of blasphemy and set on fire. In November 2020, a bank manager in Khushab was shot dead by a guard on charges of blasphemy, after which a personal feud ensued.

In November 2021, an angry mob set fire to the Charsadda police station. There was a man in the police station who was accused of blasphemy and the angry mob demanded that the man in police custody be handed over to them. In August 2020, an angry mob attacked a temple in Rahim Yar Khan and damaged property.

People’s indifference in incident

Violence and hatred in the name of blasphemy have increased in Pakistan to such an extent that people seem to be trying to get rewards by contributing as much as possible instead of stopping the violence and this is what happened yesterday. While people were torturing the Sri Lankan citizen and his body was being cremated, the people present on the spot were taking selfies while some people were also throwing sticks on the body, the rest of the crowd remained silent spectators.  International laws and implications

Former Pakistani ambassador and international affairs expert Dr. Jamil Ahmad Khan says that under international law, human rights, and the rights of minorities, the Sialkot tragedy has dire consequences. 

Pakistan’s international relations and identity are damaged and serious questions have been raised in international forums such as debt, FATF, and General Assembly or Security Council. Pakistan has good relations with very few countries in the world. Sri Lanka is one of them, but bilateral relations could be affected after the incident.

Dr Jamil Ahmad Khan said that if it was a matter of blasphemy then the law should have been invoked. The mob could not be allowed to decide.

Religious scholars

Religious scholars have also issued statements condemning the Sialkot tragedy. Leading religious scholar and preacher Maulana Tariq Jameel has said that the incident in Sialkot under the guise of honorable prophethood is regrettable. Qadri, Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, Mufti Taqi Usmani, Siraj-ul-Haq, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and other Pakistani scholars have termed the incident as un-Islamic and demanded a transparent investigation.

Tehreek-e-Lubaik Pakistan

Attempts were being made to implicate Tehreek-e-Lubaik Pakistan in the incident but TLP said that the Sialkot incident was unfortunate and strongly condemned it. It is also unfortunate to attribute, that the Sialkot incident should be investigated impartially keeping in view all the aspects including the background and conspiracy. 

Government and opposition

President Arif Ali, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Human Rights Minister Shirin Mazari, and opposition leaders Shahbaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Maryam Nawaz, Ahsan Iqbal, Pervez Rashid, Sherry Rehman, Shazia Murree, and others spoke harshly about the incident. Condemning the tragedy as a disgrace to Pakistan, the Prime Minister termed the Sialkot tragedy as a shameful day for Pakistan and directed to bring the culprits to justice.

Minorities and State Exam

Christian, Hindu, Sikh and other leaders belonging to minority religions in Pakistan have also spoken out against the tragedy in strong words and demanded that such incidents be stopped. 

Rev. Father Asherliqat, chairman of the Christian National Commission for Justice and Peace That the Sialkot tragedy is the result of hatred growing in the country. Pakistani law does not give any citizen the right to punish anyone.

Father Asher Liaqat said that the government should punish the perpetrators of the tragedy as severely as possible so that the fear among the minorities could be removed and those who targeted innocent people under the guise of religion could be stopped.

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