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The lynching of a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot is Pakistan’s shame

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Priyantha Diyawadana, a Sri Lankan man was tortured and burnt to death in Sialkot in Pakistan on Friday for allegedly desecrating poster of that contained salutations ("Durood") on the Prophet.

In a most shameful and grotesque case of mob lynching preceded by barbaric torture , a Sri Lankan , Priyantha Kumara, was burnt alive by a frenzied mob who suspected the victim of blasphemy in a shocking incident in Sialkot , state of Punjab in Pakistan . This condemnable incident on December 3 has evoked vehement criticism from several quarters . Sri Lanka, reacting furiously, has called upon Prime Minister Imran Khan to arrest those responsible for this grotesque act by intensifying the  investigation so that the guilty get the severest punishment they deserve .

Amnesty International, the human rights body as a whistle blower, also castigated Pakistan authorities for this shameful case of brutal murder . While many international bodies and civil societies’ groups are expected to come out shortly,  criticising the Pakistan establishment for their abject failure to save the life of the innocent Sri Lankan manager of a Sialkot factory , condemnations from within Pakistan been pouring in . Several religious clerics have come down heavily on the perpetrators of the Dec 3 mob violence describing the murder as against the teachings and tenets of Islam . According to reliable corners , a set of religious scholars are slated to hold a news conference sometime today to condemn the incident .

Prime Minister Imran Khan was one of the first to attack the offenders terming the day of the incident as a “ day of shame “ for Pakistan for a heinous crime committed by vigilantes . Similarly , Chief of the Army Staff ( COAS) Gen Qamar Ahmad Bajwa described it as an act of cold -blooded murder. Likewise , the entire top leadership of Punjab including administration and the police have entered into a criticism mode , unequivocally avowing to bring the guilty to justice . Such a spate of criticism of the darkest incident of Sialkot , based on religious extremism and intolerance , shows that Pakistan’s image globally,  has taken for a beating. That’s for sure . This will also hit Islamabad’s  sinking credibility amongst the world amid its shrinking reputation for terror , infamous blasphemous laws , intolerance etc .

Also read:   Lynching of Sri Lankan man showcases Pakistan’s chronic bigotry

It may be recalled that Pakistan is afflicted with archaic blasphemous laws which allows death penalty . There have been very rare cases when some liberals or human rights’ activists and lawyers had tried in vain to make amendments in these draconian laws . To illustrate this point , it seems imperative to dwell on the murder of Salmaan Taseer , then Governor of Punjab who was gunned down by his own young bodyguard , Mumtaz Qadri in January 2011. Taseer was also targeted as he was defending a minority woman Asiya Bibi accused for blasphemy . Later, Asiya had to be rehabilitated in Canada as the zealots in Pakistan were baying for her blood .

One can judge the extent of religious radicalisation prevailing in the youth without even sparing a trained and “ disciplined “ member of the police force who killed his own protectee. It doesn’t end here . When Mumtaz Qadri was found guilty of the murder , most of the lawyers were disinterested to go against him either due to the fear of the religion or the bigots or they themselves felt that murder by Qadri was ordained . Such a sorry state of affairs where the government is hapless with no teeth or fangs to effectively deal with the existing laws on blasphemy or Pakistan as a failing state,  has always been subject to religious indoctrination .

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Gen Zia-ul- Haq , the military despot of Pakistan from 1977 to 1988 , had systematically eroded the society by subverting minds by mixing religion and politics . Such a malaise is difficult to be remedied let alone reversed. Those flawed judgments are now manifesting as incurable menaces as seen in the freshest incident of torture and cold -blooded murder of the Sri Lankan factory manager who became a victim of intolerance . This is also a wakeup call for Prime Minister Imran Khan who had promised a ‘ Naya  Pakistan ‘ but his dreams and ambitions stand dashed due to the writ of religious bigwigs and keep the government hostage by mounting pressure and emotional blackmail .

Very recently , The Tehreek-e- Labbaik Pakistan ( TLP) compelled the military backed government of Pakistan to submit to its demands securing release of their leader from incarceration.  Such a weak-kneed stance by an elected government must have emboldened the religious forces which encouraged the Sialkot mob to target a foreigner battering and torching him to death . Unless drastic deterrent measures are not taken now there will be recurrences in the name of blasphemy . And, that would mean very soon Pakistan and Afghan Taliban will be akin in their activities thriving on shared religious intolerance and violent extremism .

This apart , latest outbursts of the judiciary against the Pakistani military for abuse of Cantonment lands signal that judiciary too is taking on the government . If the Sialkot murder is any indication for Imran government to tighten its belt , it should address the other multiple disorders too that  the country is afflicted with utmost seriousness or else it will be drawn into a quagmire of religious medievalism.

(The  writer is a retired IPS officer , a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius . )