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Murder of Foreign Factory Boss Puts ‘New Pakistan’ in Jeopardy

Recent vigilante killings have roiled Pakistan and raised uncomfortable questions about a rise in religious radicalization among ordinary citizens.

Members of a civil society group participate in a candle light vigil to pay tribute to Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage, in Lahore, on Dec. 9, 2021.

Members of a civil society group participate in a candle light vigil to pay tribute to Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage, in Lahore, on Dec. 9, 2021.

Photographer: K.M. Chaudary/AP Photo

For years, Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage walked a fine line as the manager of a sportswear factory in Pakistan. His employees were mostly young Muslim men, some devoutly religious. He was an outsider: a Christian from Sri Lanka and one of the few foreigners employed in the city of Sialkot, the world’s largest producer of footballs.

In December, simmering tension erupted into a full-throated mob attack. A rumor spread that Diyawadanage took down posters with Islamic verses. Malik Adnan, another manager, tried to hold back an angry crowd, reminding them their boss could not read Urdu. Then “the mob got massive and overpowered us,” he said.