London: A Sri Lankan factory manager in Pakistan has been beaten to death and set on fire by an Islamist mob over alleged blasphemy.
The incident which took place in Sialkot, was described by Prime Minister Imran Khan as a “horrific vigilante attack”.
He said those responsible would be punished with the full force of the law.
It is believed the victim has been accused by the attackers of tearing down a poster bearing Islamic holy verses.
Videos shared on social media showed the factory manager being by a mob and setting his body alight.
Some of the gang even appeared to take selfies in front of the fire.
According to reports, around 50 people have already been arrested in connection with the incident.
Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK expressed his grave concern over the continued misuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan and said this is only because of the lack of interest from the Pakistani government.
He said: “Neither is this the first case of public lynching nor is it going to be the last unless the government and politicians take this matter seriously and make appropriate changes to the law.
“The recent burning alive of a disabled man in Charsadda, and now the killing and burning of Sri Lankan factory manager are the worst examples of how people are misusing the blasphemy law.
“This year alone more than a dozen people have been charged under the blasphemy law and attempts were made to kill the majority of them. But those who attempted to take their lives were never asked questions even after they admitted their crimes, while they should have been arrested for taking the law into their own hands.
“Such inaction from the government is considered implicit consent from the government and encourages people to take the law into their own hands despite the presence of courts in the country to punish those who commit crimes.
“Earlier this year the European Union raised concerns about the continued misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and has adopted a resolution calling on authorities to review Pakistan’s GSP (Generalised Scheme of Preferences) plus status. It was said that blasphemy laws violate Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which sets out that the automatic and mandatory death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life.
“While last December the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the worldwide repeal of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws.
“There are several flaws in the legal procedure. In these cases, the whole burden of proof is laid on the victim to prove himself/herself innocent and court hearings are very often adjourned.
“As a result, victims of this law have to suffer several years in prison, sometimes longer than their punishment.
“In recent years a few prisoners have been freed, like Sawan Maish who was released after eight years in jail, Imran Ghafur Masih after 11 years, Emmanuel and Shagufta and recently Sajid Maish after eight years and recently Sajid Masih after ten years imprisonment. “But there are still several behind bars like, Salmat Mansha, Ashfaq Masih, Stephen Masih, Asif Pervez Masih and Zafar Bhatti for nine years. He was even attacked once but survived and is presently suffering from multiple illnesses. CLAAS is working for his bail.”
Mr Saeed added: “Although the international community has repeatedly called for the repeal of blasphemy laws, it has become a very sensitive issue. Although Prime Minister Imran Khan has termed it a "horrific" attack that has brought shame on the country and said he is personally overseeing the investigation. But that is not enough.
“This is the time when Imran khan must take the stern decision to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law and make change to the law where necessary.
“Furthermore, he must also review his statement in which he has urged the Muslim world to unite and use trade boycotts to force the West to pass blasphemy laws, as this statement encouraged people to take law into their own hands and made bringing changes to this law more difficult.”