P.M. Khan announces civilian honor for man who tried to save victim Priyantha from the mob that brutally murdered him, desecrated his body
Police in Punjab on Sunday secured physical remand of 13 “prime suspects” in the Sialkot lynching of a Sri Lankan national, which has provoked nationwide outrage and calls for societal reforms to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in future.
Appearing before a duty magistrate, Sialkot police produced 13 prime suspects—Talha, Taimor, Shahzain, Farhan, Junaid, Abdul Ghafoor, Imran, Ahmed Shehroz, Ehtesham Abdul Rahman, Shoaib, Nasir Mahmood, Rohail Amjad and Nasir—and secured their physical remand. The suspects would be presented before an anti-terrorism court in Gunjranwala today (Monday) to seek further remand for interrogation.
Since the lynching occurred on Friday morning, police have arrested over 125 people, with Inspector General of Police Rao Sardar Ali Khan telling media that 20 of them were directly involved in the heinous crime, based on surveillance footage. He emphasized that the investigation was ongoing and more people would be identified and apprehended as required.
On Friday morning, victim Priyantha Diyawadanage—a Sri Lankan national employed as a manager at the Rajco Industries factory in Sialkot—was accused of blasphemy around 10:28 a.m. after he removed a sticker from the factory’s walls ahead of an inspection. According to police, he was informed that his actions had incited some of the factory employees, as the sticker had contained some religious text.
Priyantha, say police, had duly apologized for any offense he might have caused and the matter had been considered laid to rest. However, some factory workers formed a mob, dragged the victim out of his office and started torturing him on the factory premises. CCTV footage has shown that the victim was murdered within the factory before his body was dragged outside, where the enraged mob set it on fire and blocked the Wazirabad Road.
According to a preliminary investigation report submitted by police to Prime Minister Imran Khan, 13 security guards present in the factory at the time of the attack fled the scene as the mob grew in size. It also claims that police were informed of the lynching after Priyantha had already been murdered.
Calls for justice
Priyantha’s wife, speaking to BBC from her home in Sri Lanka, pleaded to both Sri Lankan and Pakistani leaders to ensure justice for her husband. “I got to know about the brutal murder of my husband from the news. Later, I saw this on the internet as well. He was a very innocent man,” she said, stressing that she and her two children needed to see the perpetrators brought to justice.
Leaders of Pakistan’s Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities, meanwhile, issued a joint statement on Sunday describing the mob lynching as “barbaric and brutal.” Apologizing to the people of Sri Lanka on the behalf of the Pakistani nation, they called on the Chief Justice of Pakistan to ensure a speedy trial of the culprits for early justice.
In a press conference, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Interfaith Harmony Tahir Ashrafi reiterated that no one had the right to take the law into their own hands and emphasized that all religious and political parties had condemned the incident and expressed solidarity with the victim’s family and the Sri Lankan people. He claimed that the act would not be “linked to religion,” alleging blasphemy allegations had been used a ploy to resolve a grudge against Priyantha.
The interfaith meeting also called for harsher penalties against anyone who issued false accusations of blasphemy to discourage people from “maligning Islam.”
On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that the Government of Pakistan would confer a civilian award on Malik Adnan, a production manager at Rajco Industies, for his attempts to protect the victim from the mob. “On behalf of the nation I want to salute moral courage and bravery of Malik Adnan who tried his utmost to shelter and save Priyantha Diyawadana from the vigilante mob in Sialkot including endangering his own life by physically trying to shield victim. We will award him Tamgha i Shujaat,” he said in a posting on Twitter.
Adnan can be seen in CCTV footage trying to protect Priyantha, even throwing himself in between the mob and the victim at one point. The mob, for his efforts, can be seen beating him up, eventually forcing him to step aside.
Speaking to media, Adnan said he was thankful to the prime minister for the honor. Thanking the media for “being on the right side,” he described Priyantha as a “very fine man” who had attracted the ire of some employees because he was “strict” about work.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka foreign ministry has said that the remains of Priyantha would be flown back to his homeland today (Dec. 6). It said that the Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad had already requested an investigation report from Pakistan’s foreign ministry, adding that authorities were in contact with relevant Pakistani authorities and the deceased’s employer regarding compensation.
Earlier, the prime minister had said that he had personally spoken to Sri Lankan President Gotbaya Rajapaksa and assured him that all of Pakistan was ashamed over the lynching and would ensure justice was delivered.