LAHORE/NAROWAL: The remains of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara were repatriated to Colombo from Allama Iqbal International Airport on Monday.

Mr Kumara, a senior manager in a factory in Sialkot, was tortured to death on Friday by hundreds of protesters, including the factory employees, and his body later burnt over allegations of blasphemy.

A case was registered against 900 workers of Rajco Industries on the complaint of Uggoki Station House Officer Armaghan Maqt under Sections 302, 297, 201, 427, 431, 157, 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Sections 7 and 11WW of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

Mr Kumara’s remains were first transported to Lahore from Sialkot for further repatriation to Sri Lanka after conducting forensic and medical examinations.

26 suspects remanded in police custody for 15 days

The body was taken to the Lahore 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 were Special Representative to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, Honorary Consul General of Sri Lanka Yasin Joya and representatives of the home department and Sri Lankan High Commission.

Speaking to reporters at the airport, Mr 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 claimed.

The Sri Lankan High Commission in Pakistan also tweeted: “Remains of Diyawadanage Don Priyantha Kumara killed by a mob in Sialkot Pakistan was transferred from Lahore to Colombo by SriLankan Airlines this afternoon.”

Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court has remanded 26 suspects in the case of Mr Kumara’s murder in police custody for 15 days. District police produced the suspects before the Gujranwala anti-terrorism court of judge Natasha Naseem Supra on Monday for allegedly torturing and killing Sri Lankan national Kumara on charges of blasphemy.

Police requested the court for a 15-day physical remand of the suspects that was granted. The judge ordered that the suspects be presented in court again on December 21.

The suspects were brought to the court under tight security of the police, Elite Force and plainclothes personnel.

Sialkot police are also conducting raids to arrest the remaining suspects. According to sources, police are trying to arrest 298 suspects with the help of CCTV footage from the garment factory’s cameras and attendance records of workers. They are also showing videos of the incident to the factory supervisor and unit in-charge to identify the suspects.

According to the sources, police also arrested the workers of Rajco Industries from other districts, including Daska, Pasrur, Sambrial, Narowal, Gujrat and Lodhran, where they had fled after the incident to evade arrest.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N MPA Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora said the killing of the Sri Lankan national was reprehensible, adding that there was a constitution and law in Pakistan to deal with such incidents. “If a person commits blasphemy, he should be severely punished according to the law,” he said, adding that people should not take the law into their own hands.

Ratan Lal Arya, general secretary of the Pak Dharmastan Committee, said the violent killing of Mr Kumara in Sialkot was an attempt to tarnish Pakistan’s image in the world. No religion condones killing of another person but teaches humanity, he added.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2021

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