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LAHORE: The Punjab police claimed on Sunday to have arrested seven more people who played a primary role in the lynching of the Sri Lankan national in Sialkot over blasphemy allegations on Friday.

Confirming the development, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Rao Sardar Ali Khan said in a statement said that with the use of modern and scientific technology, including CCTV footages and mobile calls data, the police during the last 24 hours identified and arrested seven more key suspects who were hiding at the homes of their friends and relatives.

He said that these suspects could be seen brutally torturing the foreign national in the video footages. He said that as per the initial investigations, out of 125 suspects, 20 accused played a primary role in the ghastly killing.

According to a police spokesperson, a grand operation was carried out (after the incident) by the Gujranwala regional police officer (RPO) and the Sialkot district police officer (DPO) during which over 200 raids have so far been conducted and several suspects were rounded up.

He said that raids were being conducted in various parts of the province to apprehend other suspects. “Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and IGP Rao Sardar are personally monitoring the entire investigation process,” he added.

Meanwhile, in a tweet, the police also confirmed the arrest of another suspect, identified as Adnan Iftikhar, who uploaded a video clip on social media in which he narrated the whole story which led to the killing of Priyantha Kumara and congratulated the mob. The police said the suspect was apprehended after a hectic effort.

PM Imran condemns 'horrific' killing of Sri Lankan manager in Sialkot

On Saturday, police had said that at least 120 people were arrested in connection with the brutal killing of Priyantha by a mob comprising hundreds of people, including the factory employees. The police had booked at least 900 people under the Anti-Terrorism Act (AT) for their involvement in the lynching.

According to sources, the deceased factory manager was a disciplined and strict administrator and the workers never liked his attitude. They said that during questioning from the suspects it transpired that after a routine inspection on Friday morning, Kumara had snubbed the sanitary staff over poor work.

The sources said that as the factory was about to undergo a whitewash, the manager started removing posters from walls. As one of the posters was an invitation to a religious moot, some workers objected to it, the sources said, adding that Kumara later offered an apology but a supervisor instigated the workers who attacked him.

Subsequently, the deceased manager ran to the roof and tried to hide under solar panels, but the enraged workers got hold of him and killed him there and then, they further said.

Kumara’s grieving wife, Niroshi Dasaniyake, has pleaded with both Pakistani and Sri Lankan authorities for justice for her slain husband.

“My husband was an innocent man. I found out from the news that after working abroad for so long he had been brutally murdered. I saw on the internet how inhuman the killing was. I appeal to the Sri Lankan president and the Pakistani prime minister and president to conduct a fair investigation so my husband and our two children get justice,” she demanded while speaking to BBC Sinhala.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan news website, Newswire, quoted Colombo’s High Commissioner in Pakistan Vice Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama as saying that arrangements were being made to transport Kumara’s remains from Lahore to Colombo on a special flight on Monday.

Meanwhile, Special Representative to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East Affairs and Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi while addressing a press conference alongside leaders of the religious minority communities in Lahore on Sunday assured the grieving family that justice will be served in the case “at any cost”.

He said that police were still making arrests in the case and that there were anti-blasphemy laws in Pakistan and no one is allowed to take the law into their own hands. He said all the religious leaders of Pakistan, including the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), condemned the lynching.

He said that extremist attitude was a ‘collective behaviour’ that could be seen everywhere. “However, we (ulemas) will sit together to chalk out a strategy to put an end to such behaviour,” he said while terming the lynching in Sialkot an act of individuals.

He said “administrative issues” led to the lynching of the Sri Lankan national, adding that it couldn’t be a religious issue because the deceased was living in Pakistan for the past 10 years. He added that a delegation of ulemas of all schools of thought, led by federal minister for religious affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, will visit the Sri Lankan embassy in Pakistan to offer condolences over the unfortunate incident.

“I want to give a clear message to all the Sri Lankans that we (all the Muslims and religious minority communities) are ashamed of what just happened and want forgiveness for the barbarianism,” he said and assured the Sri Lankan nation that Pakistani authorities will ensure complete justice in the case as they did in the Rimsha Masih case in the past.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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