Copy of 2021-12-03T170802Z_1734452906_RC2Y6R9JG3SW_RTRMADP_3_PAKISTAN-KILLINGS-1638617575886
People gather around the body of a Sri Lankan manager after an attack on a factory in Sialkot on December 3, 2021, in this screen grab taken from a video. Image Credit: REUTERS

Islamabad: Pakistan police said on Saturday that they have arrested nearly 118 people after a Sri Lankan factory manager was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob over alleged blasphemy, officials said.

In the last 24 hours, Punjab police arrested 118 people, including 13 prime suspects, involved in the vigilante attack, Punjab Inspector General Rao Sardar Ali Khan told reporters in Lahore. Two main suspects, Farhan Idrees and Usman Rasheed, were among those arrested. The accused will be charged under the country’s anti-terrorism laws, IG Punjab said.

The police is conducting the forensic analysis of the video recordings of the incident. The body of the deceased would be handed over to Sri Lankan foreign ministry after required processes, Punjab government spokesperson Hassan Khawar said.

Outrage and shame

The horrific vigilante attack has led to an outpouring of anger and shame in Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday the killing of a Sri Lankan man by the mob was a “day of shame.” The prime minister said he is overseeing the investigations. “Let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law,” he said.

The country’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also described the incident as “shameful,” and offered the military’s full support to the civil administration to ensure the perpetrators were arrested and brought to justice.

Tahir Ashrafi, the prime minister’s advisor on religious harmony, said there was no justification for killing a blasphemy suspect. He also told the media that it was possibly a case of personal revenge as the factory workers had complained of the manager being “very strict”.

Blasphemy is considered a sensitive issue in Pakistan but the rights groups say the blasphemy charges have become a tool to settle personal scores.

Sri Lanka expects Pakistan to deliver justice

The Sri Lankan foreign minister said it was in the process of verifying the information Pakistani officials on the gruesome killing Sri Lankan man, Priyantha Kumara, who worked at a Pakistani factory. “Sri Lanka expects that the Pakistan authorities will take the required action to investigate and ensure justice,” the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said on Twitter. Sri Lankan officials said they “are awaiting results of further investigations and working with all parties concerned to bring the remains home.”

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said he was shocked by the brutal attack. “My heart goes out to his wife and family. Sri Lanka and her people are confident that PM Imran Khan will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice,” he tweeted.