The human remains of Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara, who was lynched by a mob in Sialkot last week, were repatriated to Sri Lanka from Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport on Monday.
A mob comprising hundreds of protestors, including the employees of the factory Kumara was the manager of, had tortured him to death on Friday and later burnt his body over blasphemy allegations.
A first information report was registered against 900 workers of Rajco Industries on the application of Uggoki Station House Officer (SHO) Armaghan Maqt under Sections 302, 297, 201, 427, 431, 157, 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code and 7 and 11WW of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
The applicant stated that the protesters had slapped, kicked, punched and hit Kumara with sticks in his presence, and dragged him out of the factory on Wazirabad Road where he died. They then set the body on fire. The SHO said he was helpless in front of the mob owing to shortage of personnel.
The body was brought to the airport in an ambulance where Punjab Minister for Minority Affairs Ejaz Alam Augustine received it and dispatched it via a Sri Lankan Airlines flight with state honours.
Other officials present on the occasion included Special Representative to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Ashrafi, Honorary Consul General of Sri Lanka Yasin Joya and representatives of the Punjab Home Department and Sri Lankan High Commission.
Speaking to reporters at the airport, Ashrafi said the whole nation would have to unite to eradicate extremism the way it had eliminated terrorism from the country.
"Today is a day of grief but we promise that the killers of Priyantha Kumara will be brought to justice," he said.
Kumara's remains arrived in Sri Lanka later on Monday. Government officials received the remains in a wooden box decorated by flower garlands, before preparations to hand over the coffin to his family to perform his last rites.
7 more prime suspects arrested
The Punjab police on Monday announced the arrest of seven more of the prime suspects allegedly involved in the lynching of 49-year-old Kumara, taking the total number of arrests to 131.
Over the past three days, the police have arrested scores. The suspects included the individual allegedly involved in planning the attack as well as others who waged violence and incited others.
The police added that out of the 131 people arrested, 26 played a "central role" in the brutal killing.
The statement added that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and the inspector general of police for Punjab were continuously monitoring the investigation and the secretary prosecution was tasked with the prosecution of the case.
A spokesperson for the Punjab police said the process to identify the suspects was ongoing.
26 suspects remanded
Later in the day, 26 of the arrested suspects were remanded in police custody for 15 days by a special anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Gujranwala.
Police produced the suspects in the court of ATC judge Natasha Naseem Sipra amid tight security, and sought their 15-day physical remand for investigation purposes.
Accepting the plea, the judge remanded the 26 suspects, including a 16-year-old boy, in police custody for 15 days. She ordered police to present them again on December 21.
The suspects were taken to Sialkot after the court appearance.
Culprits will be given harshest punishment: Buzdar
In a statement, Chief Minister Buzdar said: "[We] equally share in the grief of the Sri Lankan government, nation and the bereaved family over the murder of Sri Lankan citizen Priyantha Kumara."
He extended condolences to Kumara's family and assured it that the government was fulfilling all its responsibilities in the matter. Providing details of the arrests and the investigation so far, Buzdar said all requirements of justice would be met in the case.
"I am reviewing the progress made in the investigation myself . The culprits will be given the harshest punishment under the law," the chief minister said.
'Incident won't affect Pak-SL ties'
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Pakistan Vice Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama expressed satisfaction over Pakistani authorities' response to Kumara's killing, and said the incident would not affect friendly ties between the two countries.
Speaking to reporters on Monday after meeting some PTI leaders who visited him to convey condolences, the envoy condemned the lynching, saying such incidents could not be tolerated. But added that "we are very sure that the incident itself was not targeting our country, our religion or our race. It was an incident in isolation."
Wijewickrama noted that a large number of suspects had already been rounded up and legal action was being pursued against them.
"Our relations between the two countries will not have an impact because of this incident," he said, recalling that Pakistan-Sri Lankan ties went back to the time of independence and Pakistan had always come to Sri Lanka's assistance.
He said discussions were also underway with the Pakistani government as to how Kumara's family could be compensated. "We are very confident that this incident will be handled by the Government of Pakistan in a manner that justice will be given," he added.
Later in the day, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed called on Wijewickrama at the Sri Lanka High Commission in Islamabad and offered his condolences over the brutal killing.
"The Pakistani people are mourning Kumara's tragic death. The government and the people share the family's grief," the minister said, adding that those responsible will be punished under the law.
"No concessions will be made to anyone involved in torturing and killing Kumara," Ahmed said.
The Sri Lankan official said that the government and the people were satisfied with Pakistan's response to the lynching. He reiterated that the two countries had longstanding relations which would not be affected by the incident.
On Sunday, the police had identified and arrested six more of the main alleged culprits.
Thirteen of the main suspects were also produced in a criminal court and subsequently remanded in police custody for one day. The suspects were identified as Farhan Idrees, Saboor Butt, Talha, Abdul Rehman, Imran, Taimur, Shoaib, Raheel, Usman, Shahzaib, Nasir, Ehtisham and Junaid.
They were produced in the court of judge Zarif Ahmed amid tight security. They will be produced before the Gujranwala anti-terrorism court on Monday (today).
Friday's incident caused outrage across Pakistan with all sections of society coming forward to condemn the incident and calls for the suspects to be punished. Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had spoken to the Sri Lankan prime minister and assured him of due legal action.
Additional input from AP