PESHAWAR/SWABI: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government on Friday ordered a judicial inquiry into the lynching of a student on the campus of a university in Mardan by a mob a day earlier. The harrowing video of the lynching shared on social media triggered widespread condemnation from civil society, politicians and rights crusaders across the board.
Mashal Khan, a student of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU), was shot in the head and chest and then his body desecrated by a mob who accused him of committing blasphemy. The video of the gruesome violence made via mobile phone cameras shows Mashal’s disrobed body – covered in blood – being dragged, first in a hallway and then on a road of the campus. It also shows students attacking the policemen who tried to intervene.
The FIR of the grisly killing was registered at the police station of upscale Sheikh Maltoon neighbourhood against 20 suspects, including university employees, students and a tehsil councilor. The FIR – registered under section-302, 148, 149, 297, 427 of the Pakistan Penal Code along with section-7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act – says that the tragic event was preceded by a students’ protest in which the mob accused Mashal and his two friends – Abdullah and Zubair – of committing blasphemy. “During negotiations between the administration and protecting students, the police came to know that a mob had brutally killed Mashal Khan in Hostel-1 of the university,” it said.
The incident drew widespread condemnation with PTI Chairman Imran Khan pledging ‘firm action’ against the culprits and assuring that the “law of the jungle can’t prevail”. The issue was also raised in the K-P Assembly with opposition lawmakers expressing concern over the incident.
Speaking on the floor of the house, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak condemned the killing as ‘barbaric’ and ‘brutal’ and announced an independent judicial inquiry into it. “We have yet not found any blasphemous material in the case,” he told the lawmakers.
A senior police officer overseeing the inquiry told The Express Tribune that there were no traces of any blasphemous content on either in the victims’ cell phone or his social media account. “After a thorough analysis of the footage available, we identified 20 people,” he added. “Nine of whom are already in our custody,” he said, adding that they were being investigated.
However, the AWKU administration on Friday took a bizarre step by posting a notification on its website rusticating the deceased student along with his two friends and banning their entry into the campus for alleged blasphemy.
The university provost, Fayaz Ali Shah, however, told The Express Tribune that the students were rusticated to initiate an inquiry on some verbal complaints received by the university against the three. “We don’t have any written or documented proof of their involvement in any blasphemous activities,” Shah said. To a question regarding the use of a judgmental tone in the notification, he said: “It must be a clerical mistake and I will check it with the officials concerned”.
Meanwhile, Mashal’s funeral prayers were offered under strict security at his native village, Zaida, in Swabi on Friday morning. Hundreds of people, including his relatives and villagers, attended his last rites. After the funeral, Mashal’s father Iqbal Khan – who is a Pashtu poet – refuted the blasphemy allegations against his slain son. “My son would always cite the examples on the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions (RA). I know my son very well. He could not take such a step,” Iqbal said, while talking to media.
HRCP calls for justice; CJP asked to take suo motu
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) raised grave alarm over Mashal’s lynching and urged that effective steps be taken to bring all those involved to justice and to tackle the panic and horror among citizens, especially students and the academia, in the aftermath of the barbaric murder.
A civil society organisation from Lahore also requested Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to take a suo motu notice of the incident. “If this incident of serious nature can happen in a university, then it is a serious message for the entire society and raises concern as to what trend we were setting in the society,” said the application, submitted before the apex court by the Civil Society Network Pakistan’s chief Abdullah Malik.