Home Latest News Punjab Police Arrest ‘Prime Suspects’ in Sialkot Lynching

Punjab Police Arrest ‘Prime Suspects’ in Sialkot Lynching

by Jahanzeb Aslam

‘Prime suspect’ Farhan Idrees placed under arrest (left), and giving an interview to local media after the lynching (right)

Civil and military leaders issue condemnations as more than 100 suspected members of the mob who lynched and burned the body of Priyantha Kumara taken into custody

Punjab police on Friday night announced they had arrested over 100 suspected members of the Sialkot mob that lynched a Sri Lankan factory manager and set his body on fire, including the “prime suspects” who had brazenly alleged to local media that the foreigner had blasphemed.

Local journalists reported that dozens of employees of Rajco Industries, a factory on Wazirabad Road, had massed against Priyantha Kumara, alleging he had committed blasphemy by “ripping off a sticker” with a slogan of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan political party. Upon receiving complaints about the mob, local police reached the spot but were unable to take any action because they were outnumbered, with several videos from the site showing them standing on the sidelines as spectators.

According to eyewitnesses, the crowd of dozens initially comprised the factory workers but swelled to hundreds as a large number of locals joined them. Videos widely available on social media show the crowd shouting slogans calling for the finality of the Prophethood and dragging Kumara out of the factory, where they killed him by mercilessly throwing stones at him and repeatedly kicking him. The mob then set fire to his body, continuing their sloganeering and hailing the “death of a blasphemer.” They also damaged public and private property, including roads and cars parked nearby.

Local authorities in Sialkot eventually reached the spot and negotiated with the mob, putting out the fire and taking the remains of Kumara’s body into custody.

Horrible incident

“In Rajco factory, Mr. Priyantha, who was a Sri Lankan citizen and was working as a manager in the factory, was subjected to violence by the factory workers,” confirmed Special Assistant to the Punjab C.M. on Information Hassan Khawar in a video statement. “Unfortunately, he was killed during the incident, his body was burnt, and the protesters and the factory workers blocked the main highway after this incident,” he added.

Stressing that it had been a “very sad” incident, he said police had immediately reached the site, cleared the highway, and taken the body into custody. He said CCTV footage was being retrieved to identify the culprits. “The [Inspector General of Police] has also initiated an inquiry, which will be completed within 48 hours to ascertain whether there was any delay in police response or if there was anyone responsible from the police side on negligence, and anyone responsible will be taken to task,” he added.

“This was a horrible incident,” he said. “I assure you not only justice will be done, but it will also be visible. No civilized nation can allow such horrible acts of violence. We will make sure that all the culprits are taken to task and no one will be spared,” he vowed.

Case registered

Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took notice of the killing and demanded a report from the chief secretary and Punjab IGP. “I am extremely shocked at the horrific Sialkot incident. I have instructed IG Police to thoroughly investigate it. No one is allowed to take law in their hands. Rest assured, individuals involved in this inhumane act will not be spared!!” he posted on Twitter.

Police have registered a case against the suspects involved in the heinous incident under Sections 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) and 11-WW (punishment for lynching) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997; and Sections 149 (establishing guilt for all members of unlawful assembly), 147 (punishing for rioting), 431 (mischief through hurdles to public roads), 427 (mischief causing damage), 201 (disappearing evidence), 297 (offering indignity to human corpse), and 302 (murder). As of the filing of this report, police claimed to have taken nearly 150 suspects into custody.

Among the people arrested are “prime suspects” Farhan Idrees and Usman Rasheed, who gave interviews to local media shortly after the incident, brazenly admitting to targeting the victim because he had “ripped a sticker” off a factory wall that contained religious texts. Special Assistant to the P.M. on Religious Harmony Tahir Ashrafi alleged that the incident had not been related to blasphemy, but was rather motivated by Priyantha demanding the suspects complete their work in the factory. He suggested that initial reports pointed to personal enmity as the reason behind the lynching.


The brutal killing drew widespread condemnations from government officials and human rights bodies.

“The horrific vigilante attack on factory in Sialkot and the burning alive of Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan,” said Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I am overseeing the investigations and let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law. Arrests are in progress,” he added.

President Arif Alvi, likewise, described the incident as “definitely very sad and shameful,” adding that it was “not religious in any way.” He stressed that “Islam is a religion that established cannons of deliberative justice rather than mob lynchings.”

In a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa termed the incident “cold-blooded murder” and said it was “extremely condemnable and shameful.” He emphasized that such “extrajudicial vigilantism” could never be condoned and directed the Army to extend its full support to the civil administration to ensure the perpetrators were arrested and brought to justice.

Opposition leaders Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and senators Sherry Rehman and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the Pakistan Peoples Party also offered their condemnations. PMLN’s Ahsan Iqbal called for a “state funeral” for Priyantha to “say to his family that we are sorry and ashamed as a nation.”

The TLP, which had been implicated in the incident by one of the prime suspects, distanced itself from it and called for a “transparent” probe, adding that all those responsible for the lynching should be arrested. In a statement, a spokesman said Pakistan could not “tolerate chaos and bloodshed.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in a statement, demanded an immediate and transparent inquiry, stressing that not only should justice be ensured, but the state should also end its collusion with far-right elements. “The unthinkable savagery with which a Sialkot mob has tortured a Sri Lankan man to death and burned his body on flimsy allegations of blasphemy should bring home once and for all the grim reality of spiraling radicalization in Pakistan,” it said. “Regrettably, the state’s response has been cowardly at best and complicit at worst,” it added.

Global rights body, Amnesty International, also expressed alarm over the lynching and demanded authorities immediately conduct an independent, impartial and prompt investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.

This is not the first incident of mob lynching in Sialkot. In 2010, brothers Mughees and Muneeb Butt of Sialkot were lynched by an angry mob over alleged dacoity. Videos of the lynching went viral on social media, showing that police had stood by as the mob brutally murdered the pair. Seven death sentences were announced in the case, but the Supreme Court reduced the sentences to 10 years’ imprisonment during appeals.

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