Pakistan’s civil-military leadership on Friday strongly reacted to the Sialkot mob lynching, where a Sri Lankan national was tortured to death over allegations of blasphemy.
The man, identified as Priyantha Kumara, was working as a production manager at a private factory on Wazirabad Road in Sialkot. The workers also vandalised the factory premises and blocked traffic.
Authorities have been able to arrest “more than 100 people” and claim to have apprehended the main suspect behind the incident, which has drawn sharp rebuke from a wide section of society.
In response to the incident, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was supervising the probe and vowed that the government would take action against the culprits.
“The horrific vigilante attack on [a] factory in Sialkot and the burning alive of [the] Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan,” the prime minister said.
The premier said he was “overseeing the investigations and let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with [the] full severity of the law”.
“Arrests are in progress,” he added.
‘Definitely very sad’
President Arif Alvi appreciated the “prompt action” taken by the prime minister and the government, as he termed the incident “definitely very sad and shameful, and not religious in any way whatsoever”.
“Islam is a religion that established cannons of deliberative justice rather than mob lynchings,” the president noted.
The Inter-Services Public Relations issued a statement on behalf of Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa which termed the act a “cold-blooded murder”.
“The cold-blooded murder of Sri Lankan [national], Mr Priyantha Kumara, by a mob in Sialkot is extremely condemnable and shameful,” the statement said.
“Such extrajudicial vigilantism cannot be condoned at any cost,” it added.
The ISPR said that Gen Bajwa has directed the army to extend “all-out support to civil administration to arrest perpetrators of this heinous crime and bring them to justice”.
Rasheed calls for nation’s collective effort
Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed said the heartbreaking incident was condemnable and assured that federal agencies were assisting the Punjab government in apprehending the culprits.
“National Crisis Management Cell is monitoring the situation […] we will present the culprits before the court,” the interior minister said.
Rasheed added that the entire nation would have to work to halt “extremism in the name of religion”.
‘Most reprehensible act’
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan termed the incident “shameful and most reprehensible”.
“No one can take law into their own hands and kill and maim. [The Government of Pakistan] will make sure that those who did this act are arrested, brought before law and justice is delivered ASAP,” he said.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said mob violence was not acceptable under any circumstances as Pakistan had laws to deal with “all” offences.
“Horrific and condemnable act of the mob attack on factory and murder of Sri Lankan manager in Sialkot […] Punjab govt’s action must & will be firm and unambiguous,” the minister said.
PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz said the incident was heartbreaking and wondered whether “this brutality” was the country’s identity.
“Is this brutality our identity and the future of our coming generations? Will this country be considered a safe country? Will this state be considered safe? Whom will a person ask a question, when there is no such thing as a government?” she asked.
‘Time we followed Prophet’s (PBUH) message’
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif dubbed the incident as “utterly horrific and shocking”, as he said that such actions must be condemned and discouraged.
The PML-N president said the people responsible should be held responsible in line with the law. “It is time we followed our beloved Prophet’s (PBUH) message of peace, compassion, love, and mercy for all in true letter and spirit!”
‘Weaponising religion leads to mob rule’
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said “weaponising religion leads to mob rule” and stressed that religion could not be used to justify unlawful acts.
“Justice lies at the heart of legitimacy and must be done by the state. […] Sialkot is a terrible example that has to be addressed head on,” the PPP senator said.
TLP demands transparent probe
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) spokesperson said that it was a disappointment that some elements were connecting the TLP to the incident.
“The Sialkot incident must be investigated transparently keeping in mind various angles, including the context of the incident and the conspiracy factor,” stated the spokesperson.
“All those who are part of the Sialkot lynching should be arrested.”
The TLP spokesperson added that no one would be allowed to take the law into their hands if rule and law were established in the country.
“Our country cannot tolerate chaos and bloodshed.”
‘Insult to Islam and humanity’: JI
Jamaat-e-Islami chief Siraj-ul-Haq condemned the Sialkot lynching in the strongest words, saying that it was an insult to Islam and humanity.
“The cold-blooded murder of the Sri Lankan factory manager has brought shame to Pakistan,” he lamented. “A transparent inquiry should be held into the incident and all those found guilty should be handed exemplary punishments.”