Sri Lankan Parliament condemns lynching of Lankan national in Pakistan; urges authorities to ensure the safety of others

In a gruesome incident on Friday, Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, in her forties, was lynched and her body burned by angry supporters of a hardline Islamist party over allegations of blasphemy.

The Sri Lankan Parliament on Saturday condemned the lynching of a Sri Lankan national in Pakistan and urged the country’s authorities to ensure the safety of the rest of Sri Lankan workers expatriated in the country.

In a gruesome incident on Friday, Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana, who was in her forties, was lynched and her body burned by angry supporters of a die-hard Islamist party who attacked a garment factory in Pakistan’s province of Punjab on allegations of blasphemy.

Diyawadana, originally from Kandy in Sri Lanka, worked as the general manager of the garment factory in Sialkot district, about 100 km from Lahore.

The Sri Lankan government and the opposition have united in urging the Sri Lankan authorities to hold talks with Islamabad to ensure the safety of the rest of the Sri Lankan workers in Pakistan.

“We are pleased that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan very strongly condemned this brutal act,” Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told parliament.

Khan said in a tweet: The horrific self-defense attack on a factory in Sialkot and the burning fire of a Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I oversee the investigations and make no mistake, all those responsible will be punished with all the rigor of the law. Arrests are underway.

President Arif Alvi tweeted: The Sialkot incident is really very sad and shameful, and nothing religious in any way. Islam is a religion that has established canons of deliberative justice rather than collective lynchings.

Diywadana graduated from Peradeniya University in Kandy. He came from a poor background, Parliament was told.

He was assassinated by supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline Islamist party, which was previously banned.

“Mr. Kumara allegedly tore up an intransigent TLP poster in which Quranic verses were inscribed and threw it in the trash. The Islamist party poster was stuck on the wall next to Kumara’s office. A couple of workers factory saw him remove the poster and spread the word in the factory, ”according to a police official in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Hundreds of men, enraged by the blasphemy incident, began to gather outside the factory from neighboring areas. Most of them were activists and supporters of the TLP.

“The crowd dragged the suspect (a Sri Lankan national) out of the factory and severely tortured him. After succumbing to his injuries, the crowd burned his body before the police arrived,” said the manager.

Several videos circulated on social networks showing hundreds of men gathered at the site surrounding the body of the Sri Lankan national. They chanted TLP slogans.

The Pakistani government led by Prime Minister Khan recently lifted the TLP ban after signing a secret deal with him, following which its leader Saad Rizvi and more than 1,500 militants accused of terrorism were released from prison.

The TLP in return had ended its weeklong sit-in in the Punjab after withdrawing its deportation request from the French ambassador on the issue of blasphemous cartoons in France.

Late Friday evening, Punjab police said they had arrested 100 suspects, after identifying them through video footage.

We have arrested 100 suspects allegedly involved in the lynching of the Sri Lankan national for terrorism and other charges, Inspector General of Police (Punjab) Rao Sardar Ali Khan said in a statement.

More arrests are underway and those involved in this bloody incident will not be spared, he said.

Condemning the incident, Amnesty International, the world’s human rights watchdog, demanded an impartial investigation.

Amnesty International is deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching and murder of a Sri Lankan factory manager in Sialkot, allegedly on a blasphemy charge. The authorities must immediately conduct an independent, impartial and expeditious investigation and hold the perpetrators to account.

Today’s event underscores the urgency with which an environment that allows abuse and puts lives at risk must be rectified, he said in a series of tweets.

Pakistan has extremely strict laws against defamation of Islam, including the death penalty, and human rights activists say they are often used to settle personal disputes in the predominantly Muslim country.

A report by a US government advisory group says Pakistan has used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the
world.

Simple allegations of blasphemy have sparked violence against minorities like Christians.

Several people accused of blasphemy have been lynched in recent years.

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