Sialkot; December 2021:       Mr. Zarrar Khuhro, a well-known journalist, mentioned the following in his op-ed in the daily Dawn of December 06:

“Last week, Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan manager at a local factory in Sialkot was murdered by a mob that had accused him of blasphemy. Kumara had been living and working in Pakistan for over a decade,…..

            “First he was stripped naked and beaten to death, with crowd of hundreds gathering around and raining blows on his dying body. His mutilated corpse was then set on fire and afterwards, the killers cheerfully admitted their crime in front of TV cameras, proudly claiming to have sent a blasphemer to hell.

            “After that it was selfie time,….”

The incident happened on December 3, 2021. We report it here as it is very relevant to the Ahmadiyya experience in Pakistan. In 2010 religious terrorists attacked two Ahmadiyya mosques and killed 86 Ahmadis. Last year Mr.  Naseem, a former Ahmadi was shot dead in a courtroom in the presence of the judge. Sometimes ago, another Ahmadi, Mr. Khalil Ahmad of Bhoiwal, District Sheikhupura was shot dead while locked up in police custody in a police station. The killers were motivated by their sponsors on false plea of blasphemy. As the state took such incidents lightly, the Sialkot tragedy was waiting to happen. Some intellectuals are of the opinion that Sialkot murder was no surprise, more of this is in store unless the state and society act firmly to ensure extermination of the motivational philosophy and the facilitating instruments like the blasphemy law. The incident, involving a foreign Non-Muslim, and its ferocity shocked the whole nation — top to bottom. The prime minister expressed his anger and concern in a tweet: “The horrific vigilant attack on factory in Sialkot and the (killing) of (a) Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I am overseeing the investigations and let there be no mistake, all those responsible will be punished with full severity of the law. Arrests are progress.”

            In one of the videos from the scene in Sialkot, two of the instigators of the violence refer to the Tehrik Labbaik’s (TLP) slogans to justify their actions against the victim.

            Political leaders, media intellectuals, even ulama condemned the horrific attack. However there were a few opinions in public, which added ifs and buts; these deserve a mention.

            Defense Minister Pervaiz Khattak (PTI) surprisingly diluted the gravity of the heinous act in a TV talk, “Boys do things in passion. Even I can get excited and do wrong when it comes to religion. It was wrong to blame the government, instead of blaming the government, it is the responsibility of the media to explain this to the people”. Then further reported, “Pervaiz Khattak says Sialkot should not be linked to any party”. Someone commented, “A weak state, unable to stop this spread of a retrogressive mindset has turned the country into a breeding ground for violent extremism”. 

Maulvi Fazlur Rahman of JUI, more of a politician than a maulvi, upheld the blasphemy notion in his statement: “The incident in Sialkot is reprehensible and shameful. There should be a comprehensive investigation. However, if the state does not take action against those accused of blasphemy, then such incidents will continue to happen.”

            Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, a senior PML-N leader, rightly and courageously (but with political respect) took Fazal to task in his statement: “With due respect, Maulana Sahib, such incidents should be unconditionally condemned, as Islam does not allow such fanaticism and illegal killings by mobs in any case. The nation expects religious scholars to guide them in such matters.”

            While most leaders demanded severe punishments for the perpetrators of this crime, very few talked about the root causes of religious extremism, and the contribution of the blasphemy laws to such crimes. But there were notable exceptions.

            Allama Javaid Ghamdi explained in a video that the blasphemy laws in Pakistan have no support in the Holy Quran, the Traditions, nor in early Islamic theological thinking.

            IHRC, an international committee comprising mostly Ahmadis, expressed “deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Priyantha Dirawadna” and demanded that the Government of Pakistan “bring its laws and practices in conformity with international standards as ordained by Article 20 (of the constitution) and United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 2, 18 and the ICCPR Article 25, 26.” 

It is very relevant to mention that a few days earlier than the Sialkot tragedy, a mob set fire to a police station in KPK and its vehicles after the police refused to hand over a demented person accused of blasphemy to the mob.

            The Sialkot incident was reported in the media worldwide. This did great harm to the reputation of Pakistan. Leadership back home felt greatly concerned. The societal situation calls for honest introspection; it was not shy in coming forth.

Some people are of the view that what happened in Sialkot was just a trailer of the horror that awaits Pakistanis. We end this story with another quote from the wise man, Mr. Zarrar Khuhro:

We’ll see the truth of this soon enough when the next Pakistani — be he or she Muslim, Hindu, Christian or otherwise — is lynched in the name of blasphemy. Because that’s going to keep happening no matter what becomes of those arrested in the Sialkot lynching. You know it, and I know it too. And if you believe otherwise, you may as well try to cure cancer with dispirin. Make no mistake; there will be several thousand more Kumaras and Mashals before this runs its course, if it ever will. And let’s face another fact. It won’t end. Why should it?Zarrar Khuhro in ‘Sialkot surprise’ in the daily Dawn of December 6, 2021