PESHAWAR/MARDAN: It was not just a mob of fellow students who lynched Mashal Khan to death on April 13. Several employees of Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University were also involved in the terrible, gut-wrenching crime.
This transpired on Saturday amid reports that local clerics at Mashal’s hometown of Zaida, in Swabi district, had refused to lead the funeral prayers of the victim who was lynched to death on unsubstantiated allegation of blasphemy on the campus.
“Several employees of the university were part of the mob. We have identified six of them with the help of video footage of the incident. Three of them have already been taken into custody,” DPO Mardan Dr Mian Saeed said on Saturday.
Police arrested five more suspects after identifying them with the help of video footage. In all, 13 suspects are in police custody now. An anti-terrorism court in Mardan granted four-day physical remand of the five accused.
According to DPO Dr Saeed, the autopsy report confirmed Mashal died of the bullet wounds much before his body was desecrated. “The university employees were part of the mob … this is shocking,” he said.
In all, 20 suspects have been nominated in the FIR registered on April 14 at Sheikh Maltoon police station. They include Arif, a PTI local councillor, and university employees Ali Khan, Ajmal Mayar, Afsar Khan, Sajad, and Nawab Ali.
“The councillor is a diehard PTI worker,” said another local councillor, who requested not to be named. “Arif, known locally as Arif Mardan, had contested the local government elections on a PTI ticket. Arif is an office-bearer of the Insaf Student Federation Mardan district.”
Rights activist, Jibran Nasir has offered legal assistance to the victim’s family. He told The Express Tribune that a group of activists would provide the family legal support if they were unable to hire a private lawyer and a court case.
Over in Zaida, Aimal Khan, the elder brother of Mashal, said the peshimam of a local mosque had made announcements over loudspeakers urging residents to stay away from the funeral. Interestingly, cleric Maulvi Fazal-e-Amin was once teacher of Mashal when he was studying at a local primary school.
“No local cleric was willing to lead the funeral prayers – and in the end a member of the Tableeghi Jamaat led the last rites of Mashal,” Aimal claimed. “Maulvi Fazal-e-Amin had also decreed that the Nikahs (marriage contracts) of all those who had attended the funeral stood revoked and that they should renew the vows.”
A villager endorsed Aimal’s claim. “The cleric also asked villagers not to visit the house of Mashal to offer condolences,” he told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity. “Not only that, he convinced other clerics in Zaida village against leading the funeral prayers – much to the shock of the bereaved family.”
Meanwhile after initial mute reaction, politicians flocked to the house of Mashal to offer condolences to the bereaved family.
“Ulema should come forward and condemn this heinous crime,” ANP central leader Sardar Hussain Babak told journalists after offering Fateha at Mashal’s house. “We condemn this barbaric act. And we demand all the culprits should be brought to justice irrespective of their political affiliation,” he added.
ANP Senator Afrasiab Khattak also visited Mashal’s house to offer condolences. Some PTI politicians also condoled with the bereaved family, though they refused to speak to the media.
Meanwhile, Afghan Ambassador in Islamabad Dr Omar Zakhilwal also visited Mashal’s house to sympathise with the family.
“Today in Swabi, offered condolences to family of Mashal Khan who was brutally and ignorantly murdered by a mob at his university 3 days ago,” he said in a message on microblogging site Twitter