Sri Lankan factory manager in Pakistan lynched and set on fire over alleged blasphemy
A Sri Lankan factory manager in Pakistan was on Friday beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob, police confirmed, in an incident local media reported was linked to alleged blasphemy.
Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestion of an insult to Islam can supercharge protests and incite lynching.
Rights groups say accusations can often be wielded to settle personal vendettas, with minorities largely the target.
Police told AFP that Friday’s incident took place in Sialkot, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of the capital Islamabad.
Several gruesome video clips shared on social media showed a mob beating the prone victim while chanting slogans against blasphemy.
Other clips showed his body set ablaze, as well as the overturned wreckage of what was said to be his car.
Many in the mob made no attempt to hide their identity and some took selfies in front of the burning corpse.
“I am extremely shocked at the horrific Sialkot incident,” Punjab provincial chief minister Usman Buzdar tweeted.
“No one is allowed to take law in their hands. Rest assured, individuals involved in this inhumane act will not be spared!!”
Local police said they would investigate “all aspects” of the incident.
Punjab government spokesman Hassaan Khawar told reporters in Lahore that “police have arrested 50 people after the incident.”
He said that “CCTV footage is being carefully looked into as we have been directed to complete the inquiry within 48 hours.”
“We are very clear that Islam teaches us peace and tranquility and abhors violence,” Khawar added.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s special representative Tahir Ashrafi said that “those involved in this barbarian act have misused blasphemy law and defamed Islam.”
The slogans chanted in the social media videos were the same used by supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) – an anti-blasphemy party.
The TLP has in the past paralyzed the country with protests, including an anti-France campaign after Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last year republished cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
On Sunday thousands of people torched a police station in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after demanding officers hand over a man accused of burning the Koran.
In April 2017 an angry mob lynched university student Mashal Khan when he was accused of posting blasphemous content online.
A Christian couple was lynched then burnt in a kiln in Punjab in 2014 after being falsely accused of desecrating the Koran.
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