Sialkot lynching: New footage shows a colleague trying to save Sri Lankan man; police arrest scores

Published December 4, 2021
A colleague of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara tries to shield him from the mob as seen in new footage. Photo: DawnNewsTV
A colleague of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara tries to shield him from the mob as seen in new footage. Photo: DawnNewsTV

As more arrests were made and condemnation continued to pour in over the lynching of 49-year-old Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage in Sialkot over blasphemy allegations, new footage obtained by on Saturday showed that a colleague of the man tried to protect him from the mob prior to the ghastly incident.

Diyawadanage was tortured to death and his body was set on fire on Friday. Punjab IGP Rao Sardar Ali Khan, in his initial report to authorities according to AFP, said Diyawadanage had asked the employees of Rajco Industries, located on Wazirabad Road, to remove all stickers from factory machines before a foreign delegation arrived.

The workers had subsequently staged a protest on the factory premises, alleging that he had committed blasphemy. They suspended traffic and were joined by all the factory workers and a large number of locals. On seeing the mob gradually swell from a few dozen to hundreds, Diyawadanage had dashed to the roof.

Footage shot prior to the lynching showed a colleague trying to protect Diyawadanage on the roof of the factory where he had fled while the mob of around two dozen people slowly grew in number.

In the video, some among the mob can be heard chanting slogans and saying "he (the manager) will not escape today," while the colleague tried to shield Diyawadanage with his body, who clung to the man's legs.

The workers had later overpowered the colleague and dragged Diyawadanage out on the road and tortured him with kicks, stones and iron rods, killing him on the spot. The mob had then set the body on fire.

Diyawadanage, a Sri Lankan Christian, had been working at Rajco Industries for 10 years.

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

13 primary suspects among 118 arrested

Late on Friday, the Sialkot DC and DPO had briefed a meeting of provincial officials about the details of the incident through video link. They claimed the deceased was known to be a strict administrator, adding around 110 suspects had been arrested, while raids were being conducted to apprehend the others.

In a late-night statement, the IGP claimed that two main suspects, Farhan Idrees and Usman Rasheed, were among those arrested.

On Saturday, Special Assistant to the Punjab Chief Minister on Information Hasaan Khawar updated the number of arrests to 118, saying that 200 raids had been conducted and that among those detained were 13 primary suspects.

In a press conference in Lahore alongside Punjab IGP Rao Sardar Ali Khan, the special assistant said the police had obtained footage from 160 CCTV cameras and additional video and data sources such as mobile data and call records were also being analysed.

"There has been considerable progress and the investigation is continuing," Khawar said, adding said that the body would be handed over to the Sri Lankan embassy through the interior and foreign ministries.

"I want to again reassure you that justice won't only be carried out but will be seen to be carried out," he said, adding that no leeway would be granted to anyone and action would be taken even if officials were found to be negligent in their duties.

The IGP provided a timeline of Friday's events, saying that according to the information received so far, the incident began at 10:02am on Friday and escalated to violence and beatings around 10:45am, leading to Diyawadanage's death at 11:05am. He said the police was alerted to the incident at 11:28am and reached the spot at 11:45am.

IGP Rao said a challan would be submitted in an anti-terrorism court as soon as possible to bring the culprits to justice.

PM Imran conveys 'nation's anger, shame' to Sri Lanka

Later, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had spoken to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa "to convey our nation's anger and shame to people of Sri Lanka at the vigilante killing of Priyantha Diyawadana in Sialkot".

"I informed him that over 100 people [have been] arrested and assured him they would be prosecuted with full severity of the law," the premier tweeted.

Prime Minister Imran's tweet came after Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said he was shocked by the brutal and fatal attack on the manager and expressed the hope that the former would fulfil his commitment to penalise those involved in the killing.

"My heart goes out to his wife and family. #SriLanka and her people are confident that PM [Imran Khan] will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice," he tweeted.

On Friday, Prime Minister Imran had called the incident a "horrific vigilante attack", adding that it was a day of shame for Pakistan. "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 had tweeted.

According to a report by Sri Lankan media organisation News 1st, the Sri Lankan minister Dinesh Gunawardena appreciated on Saturday Prime Minister Imran's "intervention to ensure justice is served". He was speaking during a session of the parliament, which condemned the lynching.

"The government wishes to express its condolence over the death of Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage, a Sri Lankan University degree holder and a manager at a factory in Pakistan, who was the victim of an attack carried out by extremists regardless of territorial boundaries. Further, the government strongly condemns the inhumane attack that took the world by surprise," Gunawardena said, according to the report.

Sri Lanka not blaming entire country: Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called Diyawadanage's lynching a "tragic incident" and "a matter of shame" for the country.

In a press conference in Lahore on Saturday, Qureshi said the incident was being monitored at the highest state levels, with Prime Minister Imran Khan overseeing the investigation.

"We are in contact with Sri Lanka [...] we kept their high commissioner updated moment-by-moment and I want to share that they have appreciated Pakistan's stance and prompt reaction.

"This is an incident that has pained everyone ... but they think that 'we can't blame an entire segment or country because of this.' They [do] expect that Pakistan will bring those responsible to justice."

Qureshi added that he would contact the Sri Lankan foreign minister today and update him on the latest developments. "They think this is a tragic act but the Pakistani government and nation have no link with it," he added.

Mufti Muneeb says media should avoid premature blaming

Former chairman of the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Commi­ttee Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman condemned the incident but called on the media to desist from attributing blame to any group or individual before completion of investigations into the matter.

He said there was no ground to take the law into one's own hands when a constitutional and legal system was present in the country despite whatever deficits it may have.

"Anarchy and lawlessness spread in society, which are not in any way beneficial for the country, and a negative image is created of the country on the international level," he is quoted as saying in a statement.

Whole nation hangs its head in shame: Shehbaz

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif also condemned the incident, saying it had caused the whole nation to hang its head in shame and no amount of condemnation would be enough.

"Pakistan has very good relations with Sri Lanka and it should be hoped that the culprits found to be responsible will be given exemplary punishment," Shehbaz said.

Additional reporting by Javed Hussain.



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