PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has transferred Mashal Khan’s murder case from an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Mardan to an ATC in Abbottabad. Hearing of the case will now be held at Haripur’s Central Prison.
The request to transfer the case from Mardan to any other district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) was filed by Muhammad Iqbal, Mashal’s father through his counsel Abdul Latif Afridi.
Citing threats from his adversaries, the petitioner had said his opponents were influential and might create law and order situation in Mardan, where his son was brutally lynched in April.
Mashal, a student of mass communication at Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU), was killed by a mob – comprising the AWKU students and employees – which had earlier accused him of blasphemy. The allegation was, however, rejected by a joint investigation team.
On Thursday a two-member PHC bench – comprising Chief Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim – heard Iqbal’s request. Afridi in his arguments told the court that besides threats to Iqbal’s life, the case also involved a high number of witnesses and prosecutors, who would also have to be provided security.
There are more than 57 accused, who would have to be presented in the court. Due to this large number, a law and order situation might emerge in Mardan, where some religious parties’ leaders have already held processions in support of the alleged killers, the petitioner’s counsel said.
The petitioner said it would be a gigantic challenge for the government to administer security to such a large number of people. Therefore, it would be better if the case was shifted to some other district of the province.
However, the respondents, who have hired a number of experienced criminal lawyers, argued that government should not be afraid of any such situation as it will have to provide security even if the case is transferred to some other district.
The respondents agreed that a huge number of people were involved in the case, but said this should be the very reason why the case should not be transferred as movement of these people from one district to another might also create a law and order situation.
Talking with regard to security of witnesses, they said these witnesses comprised either police officials or the AWKU employees and only a few of them belonged to the general public, who, they said, could easily be provided security.
The K-P government had also expressed its desire to shift the case from Mardan for security reasons. The PHC Chief Justice Yaha Afridi asked the additional attorney general to ask the government where it wanted to hold the hearing and where it could provide maximum security.
The government in its response told the court that the case might to be shifted to an ATC at the Haripur Central Prison. The court accepted the government’s plea and ordered to shift the case to ATC Abbottabad.
Later, talking to The Express Tribune, Mashal’s father said Haripur was a neutral place and very peaceful. However, he added, he did not expect much from ‘this system’.
“The case should have been decided by now, but even after the passage of 106 days, they have hardly been able now to decide where to hold the case hearing,” he said.