• DPO says 26 of 126 suspects to be produced before ATC
• PM announces award for man who tried to save Priyantha
• Ulema to condemn ‘barbaric act’ in sermons
• Body to be flown back to Sri Lanka today
NAROWAL/ LAHORE: Thirteen key suspects spotted with the help of footage were remanded by a duty magistrate in police custody till Monday when they will be produced before an anti-terrorism court for lynching of Priyantha Kumara, as the Sialkot police tightened noose around the culprits by conducting more raids.
Also, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced Tamgha-i-Shujaat, the civil award for bravery, for the victim’s colleague, Malik Adnan, who tried his utmost to rescue the Sri Lankan national on Friday when hundreds of men protesting against the alleged blasphemy by Mr Kumara attacked him at the factory where he worked as general manager, tortured him to death before setting fire to his body.
Leaders of Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities on Sunday declared the Sialkot mob lynching ‘barbaric and brutal’, apologised to the people of Sri Lanka on behalf of the Pakistani nation and demanded that the Chief Justice of Pakistan ensure speedy trial of the culprits for early justice.
According to the Sri Lanka foreign ministry, the human remains of Mr Kumara will be flown back home through Sri Lankan Airlines on Dec 6 (today). Police sources confirmed that the body was shifted from Sialkot to a hospital in Lahore on Saturday night for medico-legal formalities before it would be handed over to the Sri Lankan embassy officials.
The Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad has already requested an investigation report from the Pakistan’s foreign ministry regarding the death of Mr Kumara. The foreign ministry also stated that the high commission was also in discussion with the Pakistani authorities and the employer of the deceased regarding payment of compensation.
The victim was general manager of Rajco Industries, situated on Wazirabad Road, where the ghastly murder took place amid violent protest against the alleged blasphemy.
According to police sources, a total of 57 suspects including some workers have been identified with the help of CCTV footage who were involved in the attack. Of them, 25 suspects had been held and raids were being conducted to arrest the 32 others, the police sources said. Police were using conventional as well as modern methods to trace them, as many fled their homes.
Despite the weekly holiday, the Uggoki police on Sunday produced the 13 main suspects — Talha, Taimor, Shahzain, Farhan, Junaid, Abdul Ghafor, Imran, Ahmed Shehroz, Ehtesham Abdul Rahman, Shoaib, Nasir Mahmood, Rohail Amjad and Nasir — before the court of duty magistrate Mohammad Zareef amid tight security arrangements in order to obtain their remand. The police apprised the duty magistrate that they would present the suspects before a special terrorism court in Gujranwala on Monday to seek further remand for interrogation. The duty magistrate remanded them in police custody for 24 hours.
The Sialkot police continued to conduct raids in different parts of the district to arrest other culprits though more than a hundred men had already been rounded up during the initial crackdown.
Inspector General of Police Rao Sardar Ali Khan told the media that seven more main suspects were arrested on Sunday as the total number of suspects swelled to 126. Of them, 20 main suspects were identified as police ascertained their role, he added.
The police chief said investigation was under way to identify those involved in provocation for violence besides those involved in gruesome murder.
Speaking to Dawn, Sialkot District Police Officer Omar Saeed said that 26 of the 126 suspects would be produced before an anti-terrorism court on Monday while others would be presented in a court next day.
The DPO claimed that personnel from 27 police stations had responded to the call of the security guard about the murder of Mr Kumara. He said the mob was planning to set on fire the entire factory after lynching the Sri Lankan national, whereas a group of charged workers headed towards the residence of the factory owner to kill him and his family, too, but the timely action by the police prevented further violence.
Praising the courage of Mr Adnan who tried to rescue the victim, the prime minister announced a civil award for him. In a tweet, Mr Khan tweeted: “On behalf of the nation I want to salute moral courage & bravery of Malik Adnan who tried his utmost to shelter & save Priyantha Diyawadana from the vigilante mob in Sialkot incl endangering his own life by physically trying to shield victim. We will award him Tamgha i Shujaat.”
Also, leaders of Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities in a meeting on Sunday decided that the incident should be condemned during sermons in mosques on Friday and in churches and other places of worship on Sunday across Pakistan.
Terming the Sialkot incident barbaric, they apologized on behalf of the nation and expressed solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. They demanded speedy trial for earliest conviction of the culprits.
Speaking at a joint press conference along with them following the meeting, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Interfaith Harmony Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi said the Pakistan Ulema Council and Interfaith Harmony Council would award shields to the two young men who had tried to save the Sri Lankan manager from the mob.
He said no one had the right to take the law into hand, as a plaintiff could not be allowed to become a judge and an executor at the same time.
The Sialkot incident had been condemned by all religious and political parties and all had expressed solidarity with the victim’s family and Sri Lankan people, he said.
This individual act, the PM’s aide asserted, could not be linked with any religion, as the factory workers had a grudge against the slain factory manager who had been preventing them from shirking work.
Responding to a question, he said the FO and religious scholars were in contact with the Sri Lankan embassy and leading scholars in Sri Lanka to save Pakistan-Lanka relations.
He added that religious scholars would also accompany Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri and Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Qibla Ayyaz to the Sri Lankan embassy to offer condolence.
Hafiz Ashrafi said Friday sermons would be used to inform the people of existing blasphemy laws to curb reoccurrence of such heinous incidents.
Christian leader Father James Chunan called for creating awareness among the masses to check misuse of blasphemy laws in the country.
Dr Majeed Abel said those making false accusations of blasphemy must also be punished.
The Khateeb of Data Darbar mosque, Ramzan Sialvi, cautioned that by associating with religion any incident executed for vested interest would weaken blasphemy laws.
Sikh leader Sardar Sikander Singh and Hindu leader Bhagat Lal Khokhar also condemned the Sialkot incident, calling it a conspiracy against Pakistan, and demanded exemplary punishment to the culprits.
Mufti Mohammad Ali Naqshbandi, Maulana Abdul Wahab Rupari, Hafiz Kazim Raza, Allama Zubair Abid, Hafiz Noman, Maulana Naeem Badshah, Maulana Mahmood Ghaznavi, Pastor Emanuel Khokhar, Maulana Mohammad Aslam Qadri, Maulana Rehmat Ali, Maulana Mohammad Shafi Qasmi, Maulana Mubashir Rahimi, Hafiz Ali Abid and others were also present.
Asif Chaudhry from Lahore also contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2021