12/06/2021, 13.28
PAKISTAN
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Blasphemy: protests across the country against Sialkot lynching (VIDEO)

by Shafique Khokhar

Priyantha Kumara's wife demands justice from the Sri Lankan and Pakistani governments. The Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry condemns the brutal murder. “When NGOs present data or highlight these issues the government consider their work as NGO propaganda,” activist said. Signing the agreement with TLP radical Islamists was a mistake.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Unrest and protests continue in Pakistan after the lynching of a Sri Lankan factory manager.

On Friday Priyantha Kumara was beaten to death and his body set on fire after he was accused of blasphemy for removing posters by the radical Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) from the walls of his factory.

So far, Punjab law enforcement have arrested 131 people in connection with the brutal killing.

Police stated that the local governor and the inspector general are monitoring the investigation and that the suspects will be brought to an anti-terrorism court today.

Kumara’s wife urged the Sri Lankan government to intervene and asked Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for justice.

"I saw that he was being attacked on the internet... it was so inhumane," she said.

The Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and other trade associations condemned the act.

SCCI President Mian Imran Akbar blamed the killing on a “personal vendetta” on the part of some workers disguised as a religious incident.

Members of civil society groups joined in protest against the abuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan.

Priyantha Kumara “was killed on false charges,” said activist Mariyam Kashif Anthony. "The people who killed him [. . .] did not want to work under him” while “he just asked them to work honestly”.

Peter Jacob, who heads the Centre for Social Justice, said that blasphemy accusations were fiction. Now “we ask them [the government] what do they say?”

“Dozens of people have been affected by this law and hundreds of families have been destroyed, now living in insecurity in Pakistan,” he explained.

“When NGOs present data or highlight these issues the government consider their work as NGO propaganda,” he added. ‘Now it’s time for change.”

Naveed Walker, director of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), told AsiaNews that Prime Minister Imran Khan's real mistake was signing the agreement with the radical Islamist group, a deal that they “have to revisit”.

“The security forces failed to intervene,” he noted. “In the First Information Report, they wrote that they were unable to control the crowd of 800-900 factory workers”.

Yet, “there is a 20-minute difference between the call to the emergency police and the time they reached the site of the incident.”

In late October, TLP supporters held a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad to demand the release of their leader and the lifting of the ban on the organisation, which was outlawed in April this year.

As part of the agreement with the Islamist party, the government released its leader, Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, and 2,000 other party members.

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