Down with the 225 who have failed to agree on united response to the Sialkot barbarism!
Posted on December 15th, 2021

By Rohana R. Wasala

The lesson taught by the failure of our parliament to register a prompt united response of unqualified condemnation against the occurrence of the Sialkot savagery committed in the name of religion should never be forgotten by all patriotic Sri Lankans. My hunch is that ordinary Sri Lankans whose hearts bled for Priyantha Kumara, the victim of that sadistic barbarity, would have reasonably expected all the MPs to unite against murderous Islamism that led to his ordeal, following the example of all Muslim MPs having stood by their fellow Muslim MP Rishad Badiuddeen who was suspected by some to have  had links with the suicide bombers who carried out the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. The lesson that can be derived from the collective dereliction of a vital national responsibility by the MPs is that the present ruling elite (fully represented in parliament in the form of the government and the opposition) has neither the will nor the ability to resolve the problems of political and ideological extremism that have been unnecessarily assailing the nation for a long time, in the characteristically peaceful nonviolent and enlightened way so well illustrated in our dominant, almost identical, Buddhist and Hindu cultures. Relentless pursuers of conflicting geopolitical agendas in our neighbourhood exploit these issues of externally imposed political and religious extremism in their own interest, but to the great detriment of our people (as His Eminence the Cardinal has so often emphasized in the recent past).  

It’s almost two weeks since an innocent  Sri Lankan expatriate employee Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana was set upon, beaten to death, and burned on a main road in a most despicable, inhumanly cruel manner by an Islamist lynch mob, arbitrarily and maliciously accusing him of blasphemy, at Sialkot in the north-east of the Punjab province of Pakistan on Friday, December 3, 2021. The sickening details of the appalling incident are now well known, and so we can avoid the pain of repeating them. If the horrendous outrage fails to galvanize the civilized world to resolve to root out forthwith the diabolical crime (against humanity) of killing in the name of religion, nothing will. Not that this kind of extremist brutality is an uncommon happening in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; probably, though, no religious atrocity committed there previously could rival what our unfortunate compatriot was subjected to. 

 Pakistan premier Imran Khan tweeted his utmost concern late Saturday(4) about the brutal lynching episode of the previous day, which he had earlier condemned as ‘horrific’; it was a day of shame for Pakistan, he said. Imran Khan’s twitter message ran: Spoke to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today in UAE to convey our nation’s anger & shame to people of Sri Lanka at vigilante killing of Priyantha Diyawadana in Sialkot. I informed him 100+ ppl arrested & assured him they would be prosecuted with full severity of the law”. (Both the presidents were then in Abu Dhabi for the recent Indian Ocean Conference held there.) The online wionews.com later reported (December 5) that after the Pakistani premier’s order to initiate a concerted probe, more than 800 suspects had already been booked, including the principal assailant Farhan Idrees. 

To my mind, the Sri Lankan government’s response has not at all been commensurate with the enormity of the outrage. Hardly a handful of the 225 in parliament (most of whom are eating and drinking zombies, i.e., will-less and speechless human corpses claimed to have been magically raised from the dead and used in African witchcraft) were courageous enough to utter anything that contradicted or questioned the Pakistani government’s judicious, but duplicitous stand on the lynching of a lone, completely helpless, Sri Lankan citizen. Priyantha was no ordinary Sri Lankan citizen. He had served the Pakistan nation with exceptional professionalism in a senior position in its industry field for eleven long years away from his home country and from his beloved young family. Actually, it was his commitment to his work that brought him this fate. Some workers under him were unhappy about the expat senior manager’s no-nonsense approach to work. They were looking for an opportunity to have him punished. The poster removing incident gave them the chance to invoke the blasphemy allegation, and physically eliminate him. However, we cannot blame the Pakistani premier or his government too much in connection with the lynching. It must be as abhorrent to them as it is to all civilized people of the world. Yet it is up to the Pakistani rulers to put an end to blasphemy laws in order to prevent future crimes like this. The civilized Pakistani citizens do not approve of what happened, but they know the PM’s constraining dilemma, and would excuse him for his dubious stand on the matter; but they will not think very highly about Sri Lankan MPs’ chickening out of a more robust rejection of violent Islamism on this occasion.  

Be that as it may, with justice and humanity on our side, we have all the reason to have expected of our politicoes a non-militant, but nationally more dignified and more engaged response to the tragedy. It looks like they are too dumb to realize that, probably, their own accustomed parochial politicking even while the whole country is being devoured by the monster of  geopolitics in the region also served to precipitate this obviously premeditated attack on a poor unsuspecting citizen of a country that the Jihadists have been brainwashed  to identify as an infidel nation that persecutes Muslims. This unsavoury image of Sri Lanka has been created through relentless anti-Buddhist false propaganda.

It looked as if both the government and the opposition were more concerned with dealing with the political fallout of the Sialkot incident than with assuaging the suffering of the bereaved family. When minister Bandula Gunawardane announced in parliament the planned award of the  derisory sum of 2.5 million in the debased SL currency to Priyantha’s family as interim relief until proper compensation is arranged, opposition and SJB leader Sajith, gave the family 2.0 million rupees for the educational welfare of Priyantha’s children. Probably, they were both more concerned about the political capital they were individually making out of the family’s inexpressible suffering than about helping them to cope up with the tragedy.  

Sri Lanka must demand that premier Imran Khan keep his word in this case, and as Professor Pratibha Mahanamahewa urges, Pakistan ought to tender an international apology for failing to protect a defenceless individual’s basic human right to live; it is ironical that this happened so close to December 10, the International Human Rights Day. The Pakistan PM’s apparent attempt to mitigate the atrociousness of the lynching episode as a case of vigilantism (i.e., law enforcement by a self-appointed group of people without legal authority, especially in a situation where relevant authorities are not available or cannot function) is not an encouraging gesture (Please see his twitter message quoted above). 

According to the Indian newspaper Hindustan Times  of December 8, 2021, Pakistan’s defense minister Parvez Khattak has made a more explicit attempt than prime minister Imran Khan to rationalize the lynching. Khattak was reported as having made a shockingly unapologetic statement: Murders take place when young people get emotional over Islam…..They are emotional kids with Islamic understanding; they act under Islamic understanding, they act under Islamic sentiments…. At Sialkot, these boys converged, shouted slogans and termed manager’s action against Islam…..They became emotional and the murder took place suddenly, but that doesn’t mean everything has got ruined…..Please make people understand that they are youngsters who become emotional for Islam ….I too can become emotional for Islam and do something wrong but that doesn’t mean Pakistan is heading towards destruction.” These murdering ‘kids’ that Pak defence minister Khattak idolizes are no doubt products of the Islamic madrasas in that country, 30,000 of which PM Khan himself planned, as reported in early 2019, to bring under state control  in response to allegations that they turned out youngsters indoctrinated with violent Jihadism, that led them to carry out attacks in neighbouring India and Afghanistan. The Islamist suicide bombers who carried out the 2019 April 21 Easter Sunday attacks were educated at local non-traditional madrasas that teach Wahhabism. Prof. G.L. Peiris, as education minister of the new government vowed to streamline those madrasas, obviously completely ignorant of the problems involved, without any serious sense of commitment to carry out what he promised. 

When public security minister Sarath Weerasekera in parliament questioned the Pakistani defence minister’s utterances, government MP Shantha Bandara of the SLFP rose to the latter’s defence. TNA MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam tried to suggest that the majority community, to which Priyantha Diyawadana belonged, deserved even worse treatment on account of similar acts of vicious violence they have allegedly inflicted on the Tamil minority since 1956. The show of grief to the bereaved family by the highest of the land was also subdued, probably in deference to the local sympathizers of the jihadist lynch mob with whom they struck deals to maintain the required two thirds majority in parliament for passing 20A. 

Meanwhile the Sri Lankan people and the leaders (of both the government and the opposition), no doubt, appreciate the Pakistan PM’s resolve to mete out justice to the perpetrators. They may be thought to be similarly determined to prevent any spillover effect of the tragic affair flowing into Sri Lanka. Pakistan is and has always been one of Sri Lanka’s staunchest friends. That friendship at the government to government and the people to people levels should not be damaged, though we have to recognize the fact that the Pakistani society today seems to be far more radicalized than in the past. 

Nevertheless, social media including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc are flooded with expressions of shock, sorrow, and shame by thousands of outraged ordinary Pakistani citizens who share our grief with the utmost sincerity. All our political, civil and religious leaders are sure to unite in fulfilling their obligatory national responsibility to convince the leaders of friendly Islamic nations not to be misled by certain opportunistic Sri Lankan Muslim politicians who maintain treacherous links with suicide-bombing extremists for personal political advantage, while creating an illusion of a non-existent Buddhist-Muslim conflct or disharmony in Sri Lanka through false propaganda.  Pakistan is one of the twelve Muslim majority countries where blasphemy against Islam or its founder is punished with death. Journalist Khundar Khuldune Shahid working and living in his native Pakistan, a Muslim himself, who is a correspondent to the Washington D.C. based online current affairs magazine The Diplomat, believes that Islamist fundamentalists in his country commit murder with impunity because of the blasphemy law that operates in the country. It was because of the fact that the concept of ‘death for blasphemy’ is included in Pakistan’s penal code that the crowd including the few policemen who were there or arrived too late to stop the lynching looked on passively, while the lawful proceedings were going on. But Priyantha’s Pakistani colleague Malik Adnan made a heroic effort to save him from the mob, risking his own life in the process. PM Imran Khan expressed his and the nation’s appreciation of Malik Adnan’s attempt to rescue the victim by honouring him with a special award. Malik has now dedicated it to Priyantha and Sri Lankans.  Hundreds and thousands of ordinary Pakistanis have already expressed their outrage from both within and from outside Pakistan at the hideous murder of Priyantha Kumara. This unfortunate incident should not be allowed to have the least negative impact on Pakistan Sri Lanka bilateral relations. At the same time, Sri Lankans should not dishonour the memory of their murdered compatriot by opting not to demand an adequate apology from Pakistan for failing to ensure the physical safety of the Sri Lankan citizen. This is not too much to demand from a friendly Muslim nation. The last thing our leaders could do to continue our prevailing excellent relations with Pakistan without undermining them is to unnecessarily act as if these relations depend on their tolerance of the barbaric Islamist excesses inflicted on our citizens on its soil, condemned as creatures unworthy of human dignity.  

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