Family awaits justice | Sunday Observer
Lynching of Sri Lankan Engineer in Pakistan

Family awaits justice

12 December, 2021
Wife and two sons 14 and 9 years bid farewell to Engineer Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana - Pic by Chinthaka Kumarasinghe
Wife and two sons 14 and 9 years bid farewell to Engineer Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana - Pic by Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

Despite Covid-19 restrictions, the grieving in their hundreds gathered on Wednesday to bid farewell to Engineer Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana who lost his life in a brutal act of religious extremism in Pakistan.

The 49-year-old who was known as a caring father, a loyal friend, a loving son and a dedicated employee was beaten and burnt alive. The truth behind his killing is yet to be revealed. 

Muhammad Amir Rana

Investigations have revealed that Priyantha was unaware that there were Quranic inscriptions in the material he ordered to be removed while cleaning in the factory premises. A colleague who was seen in the CCTV footage trying to shield the Sri Lankan from the frenzied mobsters risking his own life, Malik Adnan told the media that Priyantha did not know that the pamphlets and the stickers he ordered to be removed had Quranic verses. Adnan was honoured with Tamgha-i-Shujaat, the highest state honour, a medal for bravery by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan last week.

The Sri Lankan Engineer had been working at Rajco Industries, a leading Pakistani sportswear manufacturing and exporting company since 2009, serving as the company’s General Manager for seven years.

Extremist groups

Buddhist and Catholic religious leaders who were at his funeral, collectively voiced the need to eliminate heinous crimes committed by extremist groups in the name of religion. 

Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka Thera delivering a sermon at the funeral said, “None of the religions teach their followers violence. Violence is born when humanity is lost.” The Ven. Thera said, “The Government must protect citizens and ensure proper livelihoods are created within the country for professionals.” 

His death sparked widespread condemnation by international human rights groups. His family said the brutal killing of their loved one must not be in vain. “It should be an eye opener to bring in much needed reforms in the blasphemy laws not only in Pakistan but the entire Mulim world so as to protect and preserve humanity,” the family and friends said. At the funeral, over a dozen made speeches of his wonderful character as a youth - his humbleness and devout friendship. They said that nothing could bring him back to life. “No amount of money or luxuries could substitute a father’s love for his sons and a husband’s love for his wife. A mountain of wealth cannot replace Priyantha Kumara for his devastated mother.”

The Cabinet of Ministers approved Rs. 2.5 million for the family of the slain Engineer. Businessmen in the Sialkot district have promised to remit his monthly salary to help the victim’s family.

Modest life

Priyantha had to pay too-great a price, to bring up a small company to what it is today. His professional qualifications could have easily taken him to a country with greater luxuries to afford a better life for his loved ones. But he was a loyal employee who may have, as his closest friends recalled, lived by morals and principles. The house where the funeral was held was testimony to the modest life the family led. 

When Covid-19 brought everything to a standstill, the Sri Lankan Executive tried to wrap up his life in Pakistan and return home. But his bosses had pleaded for him to stay on. He was also invited to bring his family to Pakistan. The horrific incident sparked outrage across Pakistan with all sections of society condemning it and calling for the culprits to be punished.


Religious leaders including the Chief Prelates of the Malwathu and Asgiriya Chapters called for restraint fearing people might revolt against the Muslims in Sri Lanka following the violent death. Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith also visited his home.

“We must preserve humanity. That is what Priyantha would have wanted,” Speaker Mahind Yapa Abeywardena said, urging Sri Lankans not to target anyone because of the killing.

Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) Director Muhammad Amir Rana, a Senior Security Analyst in Pakistan told the Sunday Observer that it has been proven in the investigations that the Sri Lankan who was lynched had not committed blasphemy.  He said this was a reason why the incident sparked widespread protests and condemnation in Pakistan. 

He said powerful radical and religious extremist groups in Pakistan yield support from the people and the state. But since Priyantha Kumara is not linked to an act of blasphemy, there is hope the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), supporters of which group, the media reported, were behind the torture and the killing of the Engineer, also condemned the killing in Sialkot. According to Pakistani media, “The TLP demanded the Government to hold an impartial inquiry into the incident as such acts can’t be tolerated in the name of blasphemy.” Blasphemy is defined as speaking insultingly about a religion or God. In Pakistan, it can carry a potential death sentence or life imprisonment for anyone who insults Islam which includes intentionally destroying or defiling a place or an object of worship. It says the laws date back to British colonial times.

In 1982 and 1986, separate clauses were inserted to the law prescribing life imprisonment for “Wilful” desecration of the Koran and to recognise blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.

Human rights groups allege that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal disputes. However, according to the BBC, no one convicted of blasphemy has ever been legally executed in Pakistan. But at least 70 people have reportedly been killed since 1990 in attacks by lynch mobs or vigilantes. The perpetrators of such vigilante attacks are treated as heroes.  This might explain why mobsters posed for selfies near Priyantha Kumara’s charred body and the men not taking precautions to cover their faces.

The Pakistani police arrested 50 people accused of lynching the Sri Lankan within 24 hours  and over 300 including 34 main suspects had been arrested by Friday.

Soon after the incident, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack, calling it a day of shame for Pakistan. He told President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the phone, that he had promised maximum punishment for those involved. The family said they expect the Pakistani authorities to arrest all those who were involved in the incident and punish those who killed their son/brother/husband in cold blood for no fault of his. 


Family keen to know what happened

Kamal Diyawadana, the brother of Engineer Priyantha told the Sunday Observer that they are yet to receive any official communication from the Pakistan High Commission about the investigations and the findings. 

“The Foreign Ministry is in touch with my brother’s wife, but we want to know what really happened in Sialkot and why he had to suffer such a horrendous death.”