LAHORE: Freedom of speech is not a privilege, it’s our right and everyone is entitled to use it accordingly, said human rights activist Nighat Dad while addressing a gathering of dozens of protesters at the Liberty Roundabout to protest against the lynching of a university student in Mardan.
“We have gathered here to speak of something publicly which we usually avoid talking about at workplaces and at home, because we’ve been taught not to talk about it,” Nighat said.
“The protesters gathered here do not represent any political party, religion or government. We are here for the rule of democracy which entails the freedom of speech for everyone,” she added.
A protester Aima Yousuf said: “One of the things that deeply disturbs me is that the perpetrators ignore the clear message of peace by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and prefer killing people.”
“This behavioural norm of violence in the name of religion is not something which began today or a day before, it’s something which is deliberately being built up as a state sponsored narrative,” she said.
She added that whenever incidents like these took place, the state avoided speaking up about it, which gave an impression that it was supporting such elements.
Another protester Mir Rawtah said that if they agreed Mashal had committed blasphemy, even then nothing could allow a mob of students to brutally murder a fellow student and make videos of it.
Mehwish Rani, a researcher on extremism, said that they should stop referring victims of extremism like Mashal martyrs. “Terming Mashal a martyr is actually celebrating his death and denying the fact that he was brutally murdered,” she said. “He is not a martyr and we will not celebrate his murder in cold blood. We want justice for him.”
“In our universities, extremist ideologies are allowed to flourish while progressive thought processes are discouraged just like in a seminary, where anyone who dares to question is blacklisted immediately,” Mehwish said.
“Ironically the university where Mashal was killed is named after Abdul Wali Khan, who was a secular Pashtun leader and a supporter of non-violence politics throughout his life,” she said, adding it was a failure on the part of the university which allowed its students to be perpetrators of such violent and extremist narrative.
“Even more ironic is the fact that those who killed Mashal were not illiterate. They were university students which should make us realise that critical and balanced thinking is more important than having meaningless degrees,” Mehwish lamented.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2017.