Almost 19 hours ago, a Sri Lankan factory manager was stoned, tortured and set alight in Sialkot, Pakistan. His crime? He tore down an Islamist Party poster which was pasted on the wall of his office and threw it in the bin.
Priyantha Diyawadana, who had accepted a job abroad to support his wife and child back home, was not fluent in Arabic nor was he too eloquent in Urdu, and was unaware that the poster he tore down, bore lines from the Quran. Word spread quickly around the Pakistani factory, and thus began this man’s terrifying ordeal.
In shocking videos shared across social media, Diyawadana can be seen being thrown onto the floor, where hundreds began tearing his clothes and beating him with objects. After hours of gruesome torture, he was set alight. Dozens in the crowd can also be seen cheering in the background and taking selfies with his dead body, more on social media have even praised this massacre, calling the mob “heroes”, surprisingly escaping Meta’s “watchful” eyes.
Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Islamic state, has notoriously brutal laws against blasphemy, which usually carry the death sentence. The culture of fear around blasphemy cases means judges often fear for their own lives to find the accused of anything other than guilty. Though more often than not, these laws are often used against religious minorities (Diyawadana was Buddhist) and those accused are sometimes lynched before they can be proven guilty in a court of law.
Though, unlike in previous blasphemy cases, both Pakistani officials and their PM, Imran Khan, were quick to condemn this act of violence, calling it “a day of shame for Pakistan” and promising that those connected to the crime will be held accountable. 50 people have been arrested so far.
Maybe Priyanka’s death would finally change the laws and religious ideology that claimed not just his life, but the lives of so many others: individuals who made innocent mistakes, or whose only crime is being of a different faith. Let us hope that he has not died in vain.
Sri Lanka is one of Pakistan’s greatest allies in the Indian Ocean.