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Pakistani PM Tells Sri Lankan President Justice Will Be Served For Vigilante Killing


Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (file photo)

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called Sri Lanka's president to provide assurances that justice will be served following the lynching of a Sri Lankan factory manager in central Pakistan.

Khan tweeted on December 4 that he had spoken to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by telephone to "convey our nation's anger and shame" over the death of Priyantha Kumara, an export manager at a garment factory who was abducted by a mob, tortured, and publicly burned to death for alleged blasphemy.

Pakistani officials say more than 100 people have been detained and 13 suspects arrested following the mob attack.

The December 3 attack has triggered widespread condemnation among Pakistan's political and military leadership, religious figures, and members of civil society.

"The horrific vigilante attack...is a day of shame for Pakistan," Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted earlier on December 4, vowing to that all those responsible will be punished "with full severity of the law."

Blasphemy is an explosive issue in the Muslim-majority country, where even unproven allegations can stir up violence and large protests.

Hassan Khawar, a spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, said on December 4 that 118 suspects had been detained in ongoing raids over the incident in Sialkot, a district in the central province about 200 kilometers from Islamabad.

A local resident has told RFE/RL that factory workers had claimed that pages of Koran were found in the victim's office dustbin.

Kumara was described as a Christian who had been working at Rajko Industries for 10 years.

Gruesome video clips shared on social media showed a crowd of men beating a body with sticks while chanting slogans against blasphemy.

Other videos showed a body set ablaze and people taking selfies with it.

Investigators were using footage from CCTV cameras and mobile-phone data in their investigation, Khawar said.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said he was shocked by the brutal attack, adding, "SriLanka and her people are confident that [the Pakistani prime minister] will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice."

The incident in Punjab Province occurred less than a week after hundreds of angry protesters ransacked and burned a police station and several checkpoints in northwestern Pakistan, demanding that officers hand over a man who had allegedly burned a Koran.

In April 2017, a mob of students and officials lynched a journalism student on false blasphemy charges at a Pakistani university.l

Critics say Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are unevenly applied and frequently abused to settle personal disputes.

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