News Analysis |
An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Haripur has announced its verdict on the Mashal Khan lynching case on Wednesday. Among the 61 suspects, one person has been given the death sentence, five were awarded 25 years in prison, 25 will be jailed for four years and 26 suspects were acquitted without punishment.
The ATC judge Fazal Khan Subhan announced the verdict against each of the 57 arrested suspects amid tight security around the Haripur Central Jail. The prime accused Imran Ali, who had confessed to shooting Mashal, has been given the death sentence and fined 150,000 rupees.
Bilal Bakhsh, Fazal Razaq, Mujeebullah, Ashfaq Khan and Mudassir Bashir were awarded 25 years in jail. The court announced that the acquitted suspects did not play any role in the killing of Mashal Khan. The counsel for the defence has announced to challenge the ATC decision on Thursday.
Civil society has also requested the government to probe into the irregularities in AWKU and take notice of the corruption taking place inside the university against which Mashal Khan raised his voice and ultimately lost his life.
While speaking to media outside the ATC, Mashal’s brother Aimal Khan hoped that no one would have to suffer the same ordeal as his family. He expressed his satisfaction about the security arrangements made for the verdict and told that his family has received no threats about the decision.
Aimal Khan told the media that he will consult his lawyers to determine whether they are satisfied with the verdict or not. He appealed to the KP police to arrest the remaining suspects and bring justice to them. Aimal reminded Imran Khan of his promise to rename Swabi University after Mashal and asked him to act upon his promise.
The roads surrounding the jail were blocked and 250 police personnel guarded the prison and the surrounding roads, considering the sensitive nature of the issue. The jail administration had also banned entry of visitors for today.
Iqbal Khan, the father of Mashal Khan, was very optimistic that justice will be served to his slain son. He is currently in London and the family of Mashal is in Swabi in their home, and will stay there due to security concerns. A large number of supporters of Mashal Khan were present outside the Haripur jail during the hearing.
All sections of society have expressed their concern over the prevalent mob justice in society. People appeared to have lost faith in the law enforcement agencies of the court so they opt for taking law into their own hands.
50 witnesses had recorded their statements in the case including Mashal’s father, teachers and friends. Video recordings and pictures of the incident were also presented to the court as evidence that the suspects were involved in the murder. The verdict of the case was reserved on 27th January by the ATC. The court completed the hearing in 5 months and 10 days.
The hearing of the case started in a Mardan court but was later shifted to an ATC on the order of the Peshawar High Court (PHC). The case was transferred on the request of Mashal Khan’s father, stating that his influential adversaries would try to sabotage the proceedings. The ATC indicted 57 suspects for Mashal’s murder in September last year. A total of 58 suspects were under arrest in the case while three are still absconding.
Mashal Khan was a 23 year old Mass Communications student in Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) Mardan. He was lynched by an angry mob over blasphemy allegations on 13th April 2017. Videos of his lynching were released on social media and it created a huge outrage in the country. The lynching took place under the premises of the university and hundreds of students were present during the tragic incident.
On June 2017, a thirteen member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed to probe into Mashal Khan’s case. They found that the allegations of blasphemy against Mashal were unfounded and he was declared innocent by the JIT. The report made by the JIT declared that the murder was premeditated and politically motivated.
Civil society activists have demanded a change in the curriculum of schools and colleges to promote tolerance in the society and faith in the law enforcement agencies. They request that his death should not go in vain and the causes that he stood up for should be brought into notice.
The JIT report apprised that the plan of Mashal’s murder was hatched by Sabir Mayar, the president of Pashtun Student Federation (PSF) which is the student wing of Awami National Party (ANP), and Ajmal Mayar, the president of the employees at AKMU. Mashal was vocal about the rights of students in AKMU which created a hurdle for the employees and the PSF.
Mashal also raised his voice about the unavailability of a Vice Chancellor (VC) in the university who is needed to sign the degrees of the student so that they can graduate. He also raised his voice about the mismanagement and corruption inside the university campus. The JIT report also revealed corrupt and illegal activities that persisted inside the campus and the exploitation of female students inside the university.
Mashal Khan’s brutal murder exposed the level of violence and intolerance that is present in our society. Civil society activists have raised their voices against the misuse of the blasphemy law for personal vengeance against innocents. They have demanded exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of the lynching against Mashal so that no one would dare commit such a heinous crime again in the future.
Human rights activists are demanding the same punishment for false blasphemy accusations as that of the blasphemy law. The masterminds behind Mashal’s lynching created a fake ID in his name and posted blasphemous content on it. Legal experts believe that it is an act of blasphemy itself since uploading, sharing and promoting blasphemous content is a crime and doing it with another person’s name should be an even bigger crime.
The hearing of the case started in a Mardan court but was later shifted to an ATC on the order of the PHC. The case was transferred on the request of Mashal Khan’s father, stating that his influential adversaries would try to sabotage the proceedings.
The activists also demand that irrespective of the nature and gravity of the crime, no citizen should be allowed to take the law into their own hands. They believe that it is irrelevant whether Mashal has committed blasphemy or not, his lynching is still equally condemnable and the fact that it was executed by university students makes it even more grotesque. If someone had committed an act of blasphemy, they should be punished after due process of the law since everyone is innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law.
All sections of society have expressed their concern over the prevalent mob justice in society. People appeared to have lost faith in the law enforcement agencies of the court so they opt for taking law into their own hands. Civil society activists have demanded a change in the curriculum of schools and colleges to promote tolerance in the society and faith in the law enforcement agencies.
Civil society has also requested the government to probe into the irregularities in AWKU and take notice of the corruption taking place inside the university against which Mashal Khan raised his voice and ultimately lost his life. They request that his death should not go in vain and the causes that he stood up for should be brought into notice.