Setback for Pak-Lanka Relations? Shocked by Lynching Over ‘Blasphemy’, Colombo Dials Up Imran Khan

The brutal mob lynching of a Sri Lankan citizen in Pakistan has shocked the island nation. Sri Lanka, which has always maintained a good relationship with Pakistan, looks worried about the incident and has asked the Imran Khan government to bring the criminals to justice immediately.

A 40-year-old Sri Lankan national, Priyantha Diyawadana Kumara, working as a general manager at ‘Rajko industries’ garment factory in Sialkot was brutally attacked, tortured, killed and set on fire by a mob of hundreds of religious fanatics on Friday afternoon outside his factory on the charges of “blasphemy”.

According to local witnesses, he allegedly tore off a poster of a fanatic organisation which was banned for terrorism till recently. It was pasted on the wall of his factory. The terrorist organisation Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan or TLP claimed that Quranic verses were printed on the poster and the Sri Lankan executive committed a blasphemy by removing it and throwing it into a dustbin.

The news of him tearing it off spread like a wildfire in the vicinity and within a few minutes, a mob of hundreds of religious fanatics surrounded his factory and lynched him in full public view. Before the police arrived at the spot, he was beaten to death and even his body was burnt.

After this terrible news reached Colombo, the Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa led SLPP government in Sri Lanka reacted strongly and called up Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s office demanding justice and quick action.

Shaken by the killing of a Sri Lankan national, which Pakistan considers a close friend, Imran Khan ordered a probe and over 50 people have already been arrested by the police for the lynching. In a statement, Khan said that no one would be spared and assured full justice to the family of the man lynched.

A few hundred Sri Lankan nationals work in Pakistan’s private sector and their families back home are now worried about their safety.

“We are shocked beyond belief. We never expected that a Sri Lankan would be lynched in Pakistan. Growing religious fanaticism is a matter of grave concern for us. This kind of incident can affect otherwise a cordial relationship between two countries. Pakistan has been a friend and a neighbour since Independence,” said a senior Sri Lankan diplomat on condition of anonymity.

Namal Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s Sports and Youth Affairs minister and the son of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that lynching was barbaric.

“The brutal murder of Priyantha Diyawadana by extremist mobs in Pakistan is incomprehensible. While I appreciate PM Imran Khan’s promise to bring those responsible to justice, we should be mindful that this could happen to anyone if extremist forces are allowed to act freely,” he said in a statement.

Sri Lankan High Commission in Islamabad has been asked to coordinate with the Pakistani authorities to bring the criminals to books. Pakistan High Commission in Colombo is also in touch with the local government.

Sri Lanka imports food grains, sugar, onion, potatoes and pharmaceuticals from Pakistan. It exports tea, rubber, cinnamon, spices, gems and sea food to Pakistan. A few months ago, Imran Khan had visited Sri Lanka as a State guest and both the nations had agreed to strengthen their bilateral relations.

Several top former Sri Lankan cricketers regularly visit Pakistan to officiate local tournaments. The powerful Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka has also expressed serious concern over the gruesome murder. This barbaric act may cast a shadow on the relationship between two South Asian countries.

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