Lynching verdict

The punishments, which can be appealed, are a welcome development in the harrowing case of mob violence

April 20, 2022

Six men will be hanged and another nine will spend life in prison for the horrific December 2021 lynching of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara, a Sialkot factory manager who was attacked by his co-workers on false accusation of blasphemy. Another 72 attackers have been sentenced to at least two years in prison on several counts, while one attacker got five years, and one was acquitted.

The punishments, which can be appealed, are a welcome development in the harrowing case of mob violence against an honest expat worker. However, it should also be noted that some people almost certainly escaped punishment — over 900 were originally booked — due to the sheer size of the lynch mob. The huge number of attackers shows how prevalent in our society mob violence is and how much work is still required to deprogram religious extremists in our midst. Some of the footage used as evidence came from the social media of the attackers. Murderers were literally putting their crimes and their faces on social media, expecting it would win them praise. It is also worrying that the 89 people formally charged included nine minors. This is what extremism is teaching our children — kill first, ask questions later.

While it should be hoped that the sentencing of such a large number of people will serve as a deterrent, the road to righteousness is long; and the government and law enforcement authorities have to coordinate well to ensure that such incidents do not take place with the kind of regularity that they do. When an incident does happen, justice must be delivered swiftly, as it was in this case; but ideally, the police should move quickly enough to intervene before the victim has been tortured to death. Vigilantism, even when it comes from those that we agree with or support on certain issues, must always be condemned.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2022.

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