12/04/2021, 12.48
PAKISTAN
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Islamabad: factory manager accused of blasphemy beaten and set on fire

by Shafique Khokhar

Priyantha Kumara, originally from Sri Lanka, was killed by a mob of fanatics for removing posters of Islamic extremists. The attackers repeated the slogans of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan. Samson Salamat, of the Rwadari Tehreek: "This is the bitter result of decades of indoctrination and incitement to violence".

Sialkot (AsiaNews) - The Sri Lankan director of a Pakistani factory has been beaten to death and set on fire by a group of fanatics. The murder took place yesterday on Wazirabad Road in Sialkot, about 200 km southeast of the capital Islamabad. Priyantha Kumara had been accused by extremists of tearing down posters on which Koranic verses were written.

According to other information, the man had simply torn down posters of the far-right Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) from the walls of his factory. Videos circulated online show a crowd beating the man lying prone while typical LTP slogans against blasphemy are chanted. Others took selfies with the body of the burning corpse (see photo).

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack: "It is a day of shame" for the country, he wrote on Twitter. "I am overseeing the investigation and without fail all those responsible will be punished with the full severity of the law. Arrests are in progress."

Police, having been ordered to complete the investigation within 48 hours, have so far arrested 50 people and are reviewing CCTV footage.

"This brutal killing is yet another example of vigilantism by extremists in the name of religion. They use blasphemy laws as a weapon," said Samson Salamat, president of the Rwadari Tehreek organisation, which works to promote religious tolerance in Pakistan.

"This is the bitter result of decades of indoctrination and incitement to violence by extremist organisations that operate with impunity in the country because the state apparatus is unable to stop them. "After this inhuman act, the government should say 'enough is enough' and give those responsible exemplary punishment," the activist continued.

Rohail Zafar Shahi, secretary general of the Pakistan Minority Rights Commission, commented on the incident saying that "these crazed beasts must be punished seriously". "There should be a complete boycott of the fanatics and their supporters and interpreters of all kinds. These people do not deserve any kind of concession.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws incriminate anyone who insults Islam or goes against religious sentiment by desecrating the Koran or the name of the Prophet Mohammed, an act that can carry the death penalty or life imprisonment. However, these laws are used daily to settle personal scores against Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  

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