The Anti-terrorism Court (ATC) in Abbottabad has finally delivered its verdict in the Mashal Khan case. The ruling is to be applauded for two broad reasons: the court handed down adequately stiff sentences to those implicated in the lynching and murder of the young and promising university student, Mashal. One of the accused was sentenced to death, five men were given life terms and 25 others awarded four-year terms. The actual verdict was fairly quick coming as it did within less than a year. Swiftness is important here because it has spared the victim’s family unneccessary anguish and pain that long drawn-out court proceedings usually bring.
However, before we rush to rejoice over these developments, we must not forget that the ATC also acquitted 26 other accused and that is a cause for concern simply because those suspects/accused played a significant enough role in the horrific act of lynching — cheering and goading as they did the perpetrators and also voicing support for what was going on. Their appearance in the videos offers substantial proof of their involvement in the heinous crime and as such cannot be ignored.
To gloss over this fact is both cruel and unjust to the deceased victim, his aggrieved family and the administration that has been trying hard to soothe tensions and cool tempers. It is not surprising that the K-P government within hours of the announcement of the ruling said it would be appealing the decision. We fully back the move. In addition, we cannot help but find fault with the K-P police and their shortcomings. It is unfortunately true that the much-vaunted K-P police have failed outright to nab the primary accused as well as a few others in connection with the case. Obviously weak prosecution has played its hand. In the end justice must not only be done but also seen to be done. The cause of justice, after all, is the cause of humanity. Until all the perpetrators have been punished, we should not rest.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2018.
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