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Mob lynches Sri Lankan for blasphemy in Pakistan

Factory manager beaten to death after being accused of desecrating an Islamic poster

Mob lynches Sri Lankan for blasphemy in Pakistan

In July 2018, Pakistani residents of Rawalpindi sit beside election posters of a candidate from the Sunni Muslim religious party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) featuring an image of Mumtaz Qadri (top center with garland), the police guard who killed former Punjab governor Salman Taseer for his support of Christian woman Asia Bibi accused of blasphemy and was hanged for murder in 2016. (Photo: AFP)

A religiously charged mob beat to death a Sri Lankan factory manager and burned his body over allegations of desecrating an Islamic poster in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Videos circulating on social media show protesters kicking a stripped man and later chanting slogans around his burning body.

Police identified the victim as Priyantha Kumara, general manager of Rajco Industry in Sialkot. He was accused of ripping a poster that contained Durood (salutations) on Prophet Muhammad from the factory wall.

Usman Buzdar, the chief minister of Punjab, has expressed shock at the “horrific incident” and directed the province’s inspector general to investigate it.

Activists in Pakistan have condemned the killing. Chaman Lal, the Hindu chairman of the Samaj Sewa Foundation Pakistan, shared the Quran's Surah Al-Anbiya verse 107 in a Facebook post while referring to the tragedy.

“And we have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds. Another Mashal has been murdered in the name of one who is mercy to the world who used to forgive those who attacked him,” he stated.

Blasphemy is a serious allegation in Pakistan, where the mere allegation of insulting Islam has led to mob attacks and the murder of religious minority members

Lal was referring to Mashal Khan, a journalism student who was dragged from his hostel room, beaten, stripped, thrown off the second floor and shot dead by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2017.

According to rights activist Jibran Nasir, the odds of lynchers getting state support are better than those of the accused getting protection since Mashal Khan’s murder.

“With every lynching new ‘heroes’ are born, boys become Ghazis [an honorific title for a Muslim warrior], those who can't find jobs get mureeds [disciples], legal teams, rallies and a mazar [shrine] after death. Why must police intervene and risk life when the state stands with lynchers? Embracing TLP will become [PM] Imran and Faiz's only legacy,” Nasir stated in a social media post.

Last month Pakistan freed Saad Rizvi, head of the radical religious party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) that has staged massive anti-France protests. Rizvi was arrested in April when the group was banned by authorities but the ban was lifted last month.

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Blasphemy is a serious allegation in Pakistan, where the mere allegation of insulting Islam has led to mob attacks and the murder of religious minority members.

On Nov. 28, a mob attacked and set on fire a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Charsadda district demanding that authorities hand over a man arrested for allegedly desecrating the Quran.

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