Pakistan’s leaders and many Pakistanis have often claimed that things are better in Pakistan today than they were a few years ago and all that needs to be changed is the media narrative about the country. That is not the reality, however, as we have all witnessed with the recent public lynching and burning of a Sri Lankan citizen over alleged blasphemy charges.
On Friday December 3, employees of Rajco Industries, located on Wazirabad Road, Sialkot staged a protest on the premises alleging that Priyantha Kumara, their Sri Lankan general manager, had committed blasphemy. As Dawn reported “The protesters suspended traffic on Wazirabad Road and were joined by all the factory workers and a large number of locals. On seeing the mob gradually swell from a few dozen to hundreds, Mr Kumara dashed to the roof. Shouting slogans, the charged protesters chased him, dragged him out on the road and tortured him with kicks, stones and iron rods, killing him on the spot. The mob then set the body on fire.”
The brutal killing drew widespread condemnation from government officials and human rights bodies.
While Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the act, and promised swift action, activists and critics pointed to the radicalization of society and the impunity with which individuals and groups are allowed to take the law into their own hands especially when it comes to the issue of blasphemy
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded an immediate inquiry into the incident. “The unthinkable savagery with which a Sialkot mob has tortured a Sri Lankan man to death and burned his body on flimsy allegations of blasphemy should bring home once and for all the grim reality of spiraling radicalisation in Pakistan. Regrettably, the state’s response has been cowardly at best and complicit at worst.”
Amnesty International stated that the incident “underscores the urgency with which an environment that enables abuse and puts lives at risk must be rectified.”
As former Ambassador and author Husain Haqqani pointed out “The rise of the TLP has normalised murder over blasphemy allegations. What were once random incidents are now becoming an epidemic.”