'What have we become?': Activists, celebrities express horror over Sialkot lynching

Visuals of a mob torturing a Sri Lankan factory manager to death over blasphemy allegations were widely shared on social media.
Published December 3, 2021

The news that a Sri Lankan man was lynched at a factory in Sialkot on Friday sent shockwaves through Pakistanis on Twitter.

The mob tortured the man, identified as Priyantha Kumara, to death over blasphemy allegations before burning his body.

As videos and pictures of the incident flooded social media, politicians, diplomats, activists and netizens expressed shock over the gruesomeness of the murder and called the government's attention to the rising extremism in the country.

In a strongly worded tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the "horrific vigilante attack" on the Sri Lankan man, calling it "a day of shame for Pakistan".

"Let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law," the premier wrote.

President Dr Arif Alvi appreciated the "prompt" action by the premier and the government.

"The Sialkot incident is definitely very sad and shameful, and not religious in any way whatsoever. Islam is a religion that established cannons of deliberative justice rather than mob lynchings," he said.

PTI leader and former aide to the prime minister Zulfi Bukhari termed the Sri Lankan man's lynching "simply beneath the lowest of inhumanity", saying "we’re an embarrassed nation today."

"There’s no religion that believes in or preaches such brutality, let alone Islam."

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari called the murder "horrific and condemnable".

"Mob violence cannot be acceptable under any circumstance as state has laws to deal with all offences. Punjab government's action must and will be firm and unambiguous," she tweeted.

Actor Mahira Khan said she was sick to her stomach and looking at Prime Minister Imran Khan for answers.

Fellow actor Adnan Malik voiced similar sentiments on Twitter.

Well-known cleric Maulana Tariq Jameel said that taking the law into one's own hands on the basis of a mere accusation was against the teachings of Islam.

"There is no room for violence and extremism in Islam," he said, calling on religious scholars to play a positive role in preventing extremism in the country.

Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan Wendy Gilmour called it "a day of great sorrow".

"I trust the perpetrators will be brought to justice, and I hope the hate, ignorance and callous disregard for human decency that led to this incident will also be addressed," she said.

Author and activist Fatima Bhutto said every person in the mob should be tried for murder.

Her opinion was echoed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman commented that "weaponising religion leads to mob rule."

"No one can be allowed to take the law into their hands and use religion as a justification. Sialkot is a terrible example that has to be addressed head on."

European Union's ambassador in Islamabad Androulla Kaminara called the lynching a "horrific attack".

"The immediate reaction by the prime minister and the announcement that those responsible will be brought to justice is very welcome," she said.

Comedian Ali Gul Pir mockingly said it seemed like a "Western cultural invasion", calling the incident a new low.

Actor Ali Safina called the murder "extremely sickening".

Users on Twitter said the situation is beyond repair.

Others said this is what happened when "you let [loose] radical mobs who have nothing to do with logic or rationality".

The incident left many people speechless.

Many said they were ashamed of being Pakistani today.

The incident inspired fear in the hearts of many residents of Sialkot as well as the rest of Pakistan.

Activist Usama Khilji called for the video of the lynching to stop being shared.

Many users who saw the graphic footage found it traumatising and horrifying, with journalist Iqra Nasir saying the visuals will "haunt me forever".

Many were reminded of the horrific lynching of two brothers in Sialkot on August 15, 2010. The young men, identified as 19-year-old Hafiz Muneeb and 15-year-old Hafiz Moghees, were killed by an angry crowd in the presence of the Sialkot district police officer and eight other police officers who watched the brutal act as silent spectators.

Like the 2010 incident, Friday's brutal incident put a spotlight on Pakistan's mob violence problem.

Writer and journalist Mahwash Ajaz remarked that with incidents like this being allowed to happen, the country was "doomed".

Referring to the dozens of people recording the lynching on their phones, journalist Mehreen Zahra-Malik said "it’s terrifying that young men could beat a person to death in public, set fire to the body & then stand around for selfies. Something is truly sick and broken in Pakistan."

Journalist Yusra Askari echoed the views of many when she wrote "What have we become?" while commenting on the lynching.