Sri Lanka's Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd) Sarath Weerasekara on Tuesday demanded an apology from Pakistan's Defence Minister Pervez Khattak for his insensitive remarks on the lynching of a Sri Lankan national by a frenzied mob in Punjab province.
Khattak on Monday said the ghastly lynching of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana at the hands of a mob in Sialkot should not be linked to the Pakistan government's recent decision to lift the ban on the hardline Islamist party, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), saying even "murders take place" when young people get emotional.
The senior Pakistani minister's remarks came amid countrywide outrage after a mob comprising hundreds of protestors tortured to death the Sri Lankan factory manager over blasphemy allegations and then burnt his body on Friday.
Reacting to Khattak's remarks, Weerasekara said Pakistan's Minister of Defence must apologise to the people of Sri Lanka for those remarks, Sri Lanka's News1st TV channel quoted the country's public security minister as saying.
In a shocking incident on Friday last, supporters of TLP attacked a garment factory in Sialkot in Pakistan and lynched its general manager Diyawadana, 49, before setting his body on fire over allegations of blasphemy.
Meanwhile, a leading Pakistani newspaper on Tuesday criticised defence minister Khattak for his remarks, saying it can "only be interpreted as a pathetic justification for murder."
"Such a statement from a federal minister should come as a shock, but unfortunately, we are accustomed to our public officials being in denial about the realities of extremism and violence in the country," the Dawn newspaper said in an editorial.
"Mr Khattak’s remarks are deeply problematic. They create an impression that such killings are somehow a ‘normal’ part of growing up in a country where religion can be used to justify crime," it said.
Instead of asking the journalist who was quizzing him to change this mob mentality, it would have served the minister better to have recalled that, in fact, he is a member of government who actually has the power to influence large sections of the population, it said.
"It may be an alien idea to Mr Khattak, but he should have roundly condemned this incident and reflected on why our society has become so brutalised, instead of ascribing this heinous crime to youthful passions," the editorial added.
The Pakistan government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan recently lifted a ban on the TLP after signing a secret agreement with it after which its chief Saad Rizvi and over 1,500 activists accused of terrorism were released from jail.
The TLP in return had ended its week-long sit-in in Punjab after withdrawing its demand of expelling the French ambassador on the issue of blasphemous cartoons in France.
The Sri Lankan Parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have condemned the brutal killing and have expressed hope that Pakistan Prime Minister Khan's government would bring the guilty to justice.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Khan pledged that his government would not tolerate mob violence in the name of religion or spare those responsible for it.