A Muslim mob attacked a sports equipment factory in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province on Friday, killing a Sri Lankan man and burning his body publicly over allegations of blasphemy, police said.
Armagan Gondal, a police chief in Sialkot district where the killing occurred, said that factory workers had accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
The Sri Lankan, Priyantha Diyawadana, was lynched by the mob inside the factory, Gondal said initial information showed. Videos circulating on social media showed a mob dragging the man’s heavily bruised body out of the factory and onto the street, where they burned it in the presence of hundreds of demonstrators who cheered on the killers.
However Gondal’s district superior, Omar Saeed Malik, said police were still trying to determine what exactly prompted the mob to kill the Sri Lankan, whose body was sent to a hospital for an autopsy.
Mob attacks on people accused of blasphemy are common in the Islamic nation, although such attacks on foreigners are rare.
Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan. International and domestic rights groups say that accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took to Twitter, saying he had ordered a probe into the killing of the Sri Lankan in Sialkot. The Pakistani prime minister’s special adviser on religious affairs and religious harmony, Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, condemned the killing in a statement. He promised a stern punishment for those who attacked and killed the Sri Lankan.
Friday’s latest attack comes less than a week after a Muslim mob burned a police station and four police posts in northwest Pakistan after officers refused to hand over a mentally unstable man accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Quran. No officers were hurt in the attacks in Charsadda, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistan’s government has been under pressure for the past several decades to change the country’s blasphemy laws. However, Islamists in the country have strongly resisted such demands.
A Punjab governor in Islamabad was also shot and killed by his own guard in 2011, after he defended a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row and, receiving threats, left Pakistan for Canada to join her family.