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Anti-Terrorism Court to announce verdict on Mashal Khan murder

Mashal Khan

News Analysis |

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Haripur will announce its verdict on the Mashal Khan lynching case on Wednesday. The ATC judge Fazal Khan Subhan will announce the verdict amid tight security around the Haripur Central Jail. The roads surrounding the jail are blocked and 250 police personnel will guard the prison and the surrounding roads. The jail administration has also banned entry of visitors for today.

Iqbal Khan, the father of Mashal Khan, is 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. It is expected that a large number of supporters of Mashal Khan will be present outside the Haripur jail during the hearing.

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.

50 witnesses have 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 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 are under arrest in the case while three are still absconding.

Read more: 58th suspect linked to Mashal Khan’s tragic murder arrested

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.

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.

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.

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 the AKMU. Mashal was vocal about the rights of students in the AKMU which created a hurdle for the employees and the PSF.

Read more: Mashal Khan honored as Herald’s ‘Person of the Year 2017’

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.

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.

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 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.

Read more: Mashal Khan’s Murder becoming increasingly politicized like those before him

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.

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.

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.

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