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Another 'most-wanted fugitive' in Sialkot lynching incident arrested, says Punjab police

Imtiaz was apprehended from a bus headed to Rawalpindi
Updated 06 Dec, 2021 06:42pm
An FIR has been registered against 900 unidentified persons under many sections of the law, including the Anti-Terrorism Act. Screen grab
An FIR has been registered against 900 unidentified persons under many sections of the law, including the Anti-Terrorism Act. Screen grab

The Punjab police on Monday announced the arrest of another central figure in the Sialkot lynching case, as authorities try to identify those involved in the gruesome murder through the help of cell phone and CCTV footage.

The official account of the Punjab Police tweeted an image with the caption that Imtiaz alias Billi for his role in the lynching as well as the burning of the corpse of 49-year-old Priyantha Kumara on Friday.

This takes the number of arrested prime suspects in the case to eight -- including one accused of plotting to assassinate the Sri Lankan manager, as well as one of the perpetrators of violence and incitement -- in the Sialkot incident investigation over the last 24 hours, increasing the total number of in-custody suspects to 132.

The total number of prime suspects now stands at 27 -- out of the total 132 suspects.

They added that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Bazdar and the Punjab IG were constantly monitoring the investigation of the case. The CM has assigned the task of prosecuting the case to the prosecution secretary.

The police on Sunday also arrested Adnan Iftikhar, the instigator of the tragedy as part of raids in various places.

It is pertinent to mention that an FIR has been registered against 900 unidentified persons under many sections of the law, including the Anti-Terrorism Act.

PM assures Sri Lankan president culprits will be punished

As the nation reels from the horrific Sialkot incident where a Sri Lankan manager was lynched and set ablaze by a mob, Prime Minister Imran Khan assured Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the arrested people would be prosecuted with the full severity of the law.

According to official statistics, the total number of arrested people stands at 124 -- including 19 prime suspects -- after the Punjab police arrested six more of the main suspects on Sunday in the Sialkot incident investigation. In a tweet, the police said the accused were hiding in the houses of their friends and relatives.

The authorities have said that further arrests will be made as they review thousands of calls and various video footage.

In a tweet, the PM said that he spoke to the Sri Lankan president on Saturday in UAE and conveyed the nation’s anger and shame to the people of the island. The Sialkot incident drew widespread condemnation from politicians, expatriates, leaders, and human rights bodies.

According to Aaj News, the body of the Sri Lankan manager has been sent to Lahore that will later be handed over to the Sri Lankan embassy. Moreover, new video footage of the incident showed that two people, including a manager and office employee, tried to save the Sri Lankan manager from the mob.

It also reported that a judicial magistrate in Sialkot has also granted one-day transit remand of the 13 key suspects. They would be presented before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Gujranwala on Monday.

Moreover, the wife of Engineer Priyantha Kumara has appealed to the governments of Pakistan and Sri Lanka to conduct a "fair trial and bring to justice the murder of her husband" in Pakistan.

"My husband was an innocent man. I found out from the news that after working abroad for so long he had been brutally murdered. I saw on the Internet how inhuman the killing was. I appeal to the Sri Lankan president and the Pakistani prime minister and president to conduct a fair investigation so my husband and our two children get justice," Niroshi Dasaniyake told BBC Sinhala.

118 people, including 13 prime suspects, arrested

The Punjab government on Saturday said it had arrested as many as 118 people – including 13 main suspects – in the Sialkot incident where a Sri Lankan manager was killed by a mob.

“118 people have been arrested out of 200 raids conducted as part of the investigation into the incident,” Punjab government spokesperson Hassan Khawar said in a press conference. He was accompanied by Punjab IG Rao Sardar Ali Khan.

They added that further arrests would be made as part of the investigation as the authorities have been reviewing 160 videos of almost 12 hours long as well as screening thousands of mobile calls.

According to Khawar, the initial investigation report has been submitted to Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

“Justice will be served," said Khawar. "The justice done will be exemplary so that it never happens again. This incident has brought shame for the whole nation.”

A mob on Friday tortured Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara to death and then set his body ablaze on charges of blasphemy.

In his press conference, Khawar also said Kumara's postmortem has been completed and with the help of the interior ministry and foreign affairs ministry, it will be handed over to Sri Lanka's embassy.

“So far no negligence has been seen from the police side,” the Punjab IG said, adding that all the officers present in the police station reached the site as soon as information was sent to the law enforcement agency.

On a reporter’s question of an apparent police delay on reaching the site, Khawar said: “At 10:02 incident started and apparently after an hour, after 11:00 [Sri Lankan manager] he was killed. This call was sent to police at 11:28 and then after 16-17 minutes, the first response of the team reached the site. At that moment 800-900 people were there.”

Reportedly, he added the mob tried to stop police and they called for more forces. “Till the time police received first information, the Sri Lankan manager was killed,” Khawar said.

“It is too early to say what happened,” the IG said on the apparent delayed response of police on clearing the road and taking action. “If there is any lapse, we will review it and try that it does not happen again,” he added.

They added that further arrest will be made into the incident.

“Our focus is to make it a test case as it’s a moment of shame for us and the country that such an incident happened in our country,” Khawar said.

Punjab interagency report

The Punjab interagency on Saturday said the removal of a sticker, which according to arrested workers contained religious writings on it, was used as an excuse to lynch the Sri Lankan manager whose body was later set ablaze in Sialkot.

“The apparent grudge was of the manager being strict and the sticker removal was only made as an excuse to lynch him,” according to the Punjab interagency report submitted to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

The provincial interagency had conducted its investigation into the ghastly murder of a Sri Lankan manager, identified as Priyantha Kumara, by a mob in Sialkot on Friday that has shocked the nation. The brutal killing drew widespread criticism from government officials, ambassadors, sportspersons, celebrities, and human rights bodies.

The report comes at a time when the Sri Lankan president and prime minister expressed their hopes that the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf-led government would do justice by punishing all those involved in the murder.

Sialkot was the top trend on Friday, with people lamenting the mindset and lawlessness across the country.

According to videos of the horrific video, hundreds of people had blocked the Wazirabad Road after torching the body of the manager. People on-site took selfies against the backdrop of the body.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who described the incident as a ‘day of shame,’ has vowed that all those responsible would be punished with the full severity of the law.

“The horrific vigilante attack on a factory in Sialkot & the burning alive of Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan. I am overseeing the investigations & let there be no mistake all those responsible will be punished with the full severity of the law. Arrests are in progress,” he said in a tweet.

Expressing its “deep concern” on the Sialkot incident, Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the country trusted the Pakistani government and Prime Minister Imran Khan would ensure justice and ensure the safety of the remaining Sir Lankan workers in the country.

A similar concern was shown by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. “Shocking to see the brutal and fatal attack on Priyantha Diyawadana by extremist mobs in Pakistan. My heart goes out to his wife and family. Sri Lanka and her people are confident that PM Imran Khan will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice,” it read.

The interagency report further added that Priyantha had been working as the factory manager for the past 11 years and was considered a “tough manager” who would be strict on discipline.

“The factory owners had been happy with the work of Priyantha,” it read, adding that some days back the manager had fired some workers as well on disciplinary issues.

“Around 11 am yesterday [Friday], Priyantha asked factory workers to clean all machines as a delegation of international dignitaries was expected to visit the factory in the coming days. He had also asked for workers to remove the stickers on the machines,” the report read.

The arrested workers claimed that the stickers had some “religious writings” on them and “the content of the sticker was contended upon.”

It added: “The apparent grudge was of the manager being strict and the sticker removal was only made as an excuse to lynch him.”

Further detailing the timeline of the event, the agency said the factory owners had left the premises at the time of the incident. “They [factory owners] could have stopped it all right at the start,” it read.

“Then, at 11:17 am the police were informed and at 11:25 am three policemen reached the site where the crowd clearly outnumbered the police. Reinforcements took time to arrive because of the rush, the traffic jam and mob which is said to be of over 1,000.”

As many as 12 people have so far been arrested with the help of footage – including the two main culprits – and more arrests were likely to be made as well.

“The upper body of Priyanatha has been found burnt. The lower body was not burnt. The areas which are not burnt, bones of those areas are cracked due to the amount of torture,” according to the postmortem of the body.

The Home Department of Punjab was in touch with the Sri Lankan High Commission in Islamabad for taking Priyantha’s body in a special aircraft today (Saturday) from Lahore to Islamabad. “His remains will be repatriated to Sri Lanka where an officer of the Sri Lankan High Commission will accompany,” it read.

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