The incident that occurred in Sialkot on Friday should make us all hang our heads in shame. A Sri Lankan manager of a local factory in the city, Priyantha Diyawadana was brutally tortured to death by an enraged mob and his body set on fire on blasphemy allegations. According to reports, his ‘mistake’ was tearing down a religious poster that angered some factory workers said to be members of the extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The same group who had recently held the capital hostage and killed policemen only for the government to enter into a ‘deal’ with them. The Sialkot wing of the party has, however, refused involvement of their members but there are videos of men chanting the TLP slogan while inhumanely beating up Kumara with sticks and iron rods. But the issue is not who was behind the heinous crime but how did we get here?
For far too long, cases of mob violence have become frequent in Pakistan. It was just a week before the Sialkot incident that hundreds of men set Charsadda police station on fire because the police had refused to hand over a man accused of blasphemy to them. The police later stated that the accused was mentally challenged. In August, a temple in the Bhong district of Rahim Yar Khan was attacked by an angry mob after a minor Hindu boy accused of desecrating a local madrassa was released on bail. We saw the same outrage by the public in all these incidents and the many before it. Angry social media users. The district police making arrests. The chief minister as well as the premier ensuring justice. Media following it up until another much ‘bigger’ scandal breaks out to take the limelight. But for how long is the state going to wait for someone to lose their life to spring to action? The government’s apathy over such issues is as deplorable as the crime itself.
Extremist elements are being fanned in our country with the state often providing them a cushion. Political parties too have weaponized religion for their own gains without understanding the effects of it on the general populace. Today, as we think about the ghastly murder of a Sri Lankan man, who had been living in Pakistan for over a decade, we must realise that our collective silence has led to numerous lives being lost. No longer can hollow commitments of perpetrators being “punished with the full severity of the law” help avert this situation. The state is answerable and we demand actions.