SIALKOT, Pakistan (AFP) — Up to 120 people have been arrested in Pakistan after a Sri Lankan factory manager was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob who accused him of blasphemy, officials said on Saturday.
The vigilante attack has caused outrage, with Prime Minister Imran Khan calling it a “day of shame for Pakistan.”
A senior Pakistan official told AFP that Islamabad had been in touch with Sri Lankan diplomats over the incident “and have assured them that all those involved in the heinous crime will be brought to justice.”
The incident took place on Friday in Sialkot, a district in central Punjab province, about 200 kilometers southeast of the capital Islamabad.
Zulfiqar Ali, a police official in the area, told AFP: “Rumor spread in the factory that the manager had torn down a religious poster and thrown it in the dustbin.”
Police spokeperson Khurram Shehzad said up to 120 people had been arrested, including one of the main accused.
Tahir Ashrafi, a religious scholar and special representative of the prime minister on religious harmony, confirmed the arrest and told AFP that workers had complained of the manager being “very strict.”
“Police experts are investigating this case from various angles, including that some factory workers played a religious card to take revenge on the manager,” Ashrafi said.
Shehzad said raids are continuing.
Several gruesome video clips shared on social media showed a mob beating the prone victim while chanting slogans against blasphemy.
Other clips showed his body set ablaze, as well as the overturned wreckage of what was said to be his car.
Many in the mob made no attempt to hide their identity and some took selfies in front of the burning corpse.
Hasaan Khawar, a spokesperson for Punjab government, told reporters on Saturday around 800 to 900 people — some of them armed with sticks — were dragging the body of the manager.