'Imam refused to lead Mashal Khan's last rites'

The government of Pakistan has yet to comment publicly on Mashal’s killing

Reuters April 15, 2017
Police search the dorm room of Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, who was killed by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Pakistan April 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

MARDAN: The ransacked university hostel room of slain Pakistani student Mashal Khan has posters of Karl Marx and Che Guevara still hanging on the walls, along with scribbled quotes including one that reads: "Be curious, crazy and mad."

The day before, an alleged heated debate over religion with fellow students broke out at the dorm and led to people accusing Mashal of blasphemy against Islam. That attracted a crowd that grew to several hundred people, according to witnesses.

The mob kicked in the door, dragged Mashal from his room and beat him to death, witnesses and police said. The death Mardan is the latest violence linked to accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan.

We're bringing a bad name to Islam ourselves: Malala condemns Mashal Khan's murder

Those who knew Mashal described him as an intellectually curious student who openly professed devotion to Islam but asked many questions. "Whatever he had to say, he would say it openly, but he didn't understand the environment he was living in," said one of Mashal’s teachers at Abdul Wali Khan University, who declined to be named for fear of retribution.

Police look at the destroyed door to the dorm room of Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, who was killed by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Pakistan April 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS Police look at the destroyed door to the dorm room of Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, who was killed by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Pakistan April 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Crimes related to blasphemy are a serious offence in Pakistan, and penalties range from small fines to the death sentence.

At least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Centre for Research and Security Studies report and local media, and dozens more convicted of the crime are currently on death row in Pakistani jails.

The government has yet to comment publicly on Khan's killing.

In March, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued an order for the removal of blasphemous content online, and said anyone who posted such content should face "strict punishment under the law".

A policeman gestures as he stands guard at the entry of Abdul Wali Khan University where Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, was killed by a mob, in Mardan, Pakistan April 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS A policeman gestures as he stands guard at the entry of Abdul Wali Khan University where Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, was killed by a mob, in Mardan, Pakistan April 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Police say they have arrested at least 20 suspects involved in Mashal’s murder and have found no evidence to substantiate blasphemy allegations.

Imam refuses last rites

Rehman, the caretaker, said Mashal was alive when the police arrived, but that they did not approach the hostel until it was too late. "They could have easily saved his life but they stood away from the mob...I heard one officer say it's good that they sent this non-believer to hell," he said.

Mardan police chief Mohammad Alam Shinwari denied the allegation that officers did not do enough to save Khan. "When we entered the campus, he had already been killed and the mob was trying to burn his body," he said.

Judicial inquiry ordered into Mardan lynching

In Mashal’s hometown of Swabi, around 60 km south of Mardan, his father, Iqbal Shaer, said the accusations of blasphemy were unfounded. "First they killed my son and now they are adding salt to our wounds," he said.

Shaer, who runs a small business selling biscuits and chocolates to local retailers, said he had always been a lover of poetry and literature and encouraged his children to express themselves and appreciate the arts.

He added, "My wife told me this morning that she spent her life taking care of her son, but those who killed him have wasted that long struggle."

At Mashal’s funeral, the imam at the local mosque refused to lead the last rites, according to Swabi resident Salman Ahmed. A technician who was asked to do so in the cleric's place was confronted by several people afterwards. Mashal has since been buried.

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COMMENTS (19)

Jadugar | 3 years ago | Reply | Recommend If the Imam refuses to lead the prayer then he should quit his position as he has given up the right to Lead a prayer in the eyes of the people and GOD.
ankur tayal | 3 years ago | Reply | Recommend It's a shame on us humans.
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