Press Release

December 6, 2021 - ICHRRF urges Pakistan to amend Islamic Constitutional and legal support for persecution of minorities on suspicion of blasphemy

ICHRRF joins all the other Human Rights organizations in condemning the cowardly and inhumane crime on Friday, December 3, when a Sri Lankan national, Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage, was lynched and burned to death on a busy road in the Pakistani city of Sialkot, just 100 kms from Pakistan's second largest city and cultural hub of Lahore. A Buddhist by faith, Priyantha was a manager at an industrial engineering plant there. A frenzied mob viciously killed him because of his different faith. The mob assumed the worst about his intentions, and gathered to watch and take turns kicking, lynching and eventually setting him afire. The mob watched him burn and kept raising religious slogans while proclaiming instantaneous death for anyone who allegedly committed blasphemy. Many members of the mob took selfies with his burning body. Live videos of his lynching and burning were viral on Pakistani and eventually international social media, demonstrating the impunity and audacity of the perpetrators of this dastardly malicious act. The deceased, 48, leaves behind a wife and two young children in Sri Lanka.

As the international community began to express shock at the gruesome videos, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has a track record of expressing solidarity with extremist Islamic organizations such as the Taliban, said he condemns the incident and ordered police to arrest dozens of perpetrators. However, Federal Ministers in his cabinet have attempted to rationalize and trivialize this heinous crime. Pakistan has a reputation of releasing perpetrators of crimes related to punishing blasphemy once any adverse publicity dies down. Most incidents of mob violence related to rumors of blasphemy are targeted at the country's beleaguered Hindu, Christian and Sikh minorities, and often turn out to be based on unfounded allegations by Muslims who have a personal grudge against the victims. Organizations like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) specialize in persecuting minorities based on blasphemy, but scant legal action has been taken in their regard.

Apart from spontaneous and organized mob violence related to blasphemy, Pakistan has a "blasphemy law" that prohibits disturbing a religious Islamic assembly, trespassing on burial grounds, insulting religious beliefs or intentionally destroying or defiling a place or an object of worship. Making derogatory remarks against Islamic personages is an offense - and in 1982, a clause prescribing life imprisonment for "willful" desecration of the Qur'an was added. In 1986, a separate clause was inserted to punish blasphemy against Islam’s Prophet and the penalty recommended was "death, or imprisonment for life".

Such laws and several other Constitutional clauses that discriminate and humiliate non-Muslim minorities as well as Muslim sects such as the Ahmadiyyas only serve to embolden extremist organizations and the mob to take matters into their own hands without fear of legal repercussions. ICHRRF points out that this overarching framework that not only discriminates against non-Muslim minorities but also actively subjects them to ritual bureaucratic humiliation is the root cause of the continuous and regular series of blasphemy-related killings in Pakistan. For this reason, ICHRRF appeals to the saner voices in Pakistani civil society, judiciary and government to repeal all such laws and constitutional support that enable and embolden extremist elements and keep Pakistan's dwindling minorities in perpetual fear.

It is imperative that right-thinking members of Pakistani society speak up and international agencies help to amplify their voice. ICHRRF stands behind all such courageous Pakistanis who have stepped forward to condemn this dastardly malicious crime.