PTI councillor among two more men handed life in jail over lynching of Mashal Khan

Two more men were handed a life sentence by an anti-terrorism court on Wednesday for their involvement in the 2017 lynching of Mashal Khan.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf tehsil councillor Arif Khan and Asad were given life in jail by ATC Judge Mehmoodul Hassan Khattak. Two other suspects identified as Sabir Mayar and Izhar were acquitted by the court.

Today’s decision was regarding four people who had absconded from court during the first trial.

Mashal Khan, 23, a student of Mass Communications at Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University, was beaten and shot to death by an angry mob on April 13, 2017, after he was accused of blasphemy.

The lynching took place within the premises of the university and was caught on video which later circulated on social media. The horrific incident shocked the nation and sparked a debate over the misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. In June 2017, a 13-member joint investigation team concluded in its report that the allegations of blasphemy against Mashal were unfounded and were used as a pretext to incite a mob against the slain student.

The JIT report had said that Mashal was murdered in line with a plan allegedly hatched by the president of the Pakhtun Students Federation, Sabir Mayar, and Ajmal, the president of the employees at AWKU, where Mashal was studying Mass Communication.

Mashal had been vocal about the rights of students at the university and even challenged the appointment of a new vice chancellor (VC) at the university to ensure that students were able to obtain their degrees, which is not possible without the VC’s signature, the report had added. The investigation revealed that illegal and criminal activities persisted in the university hostel and female students were also exploited in the university.

Days before he was lynched by the mob, Mashal in an interview to Khyber news channel, had spoken against activities at the university and the administration. According to the report, Mayar viewed Mashal’s stance against activities on campus to be a threat to the PSF.

A total of 61 people suspected of involvement in the lynching ─ the majority of them students and university employees and a PTI tehsil councillor ─ were charged in the first information report. Out of these, 57 were sentenced by a court on February 7, 2018.

Case proceedings started on June 21, 2018, once the absconding suspects surrendered themselves to the court of law. Both sides finished their arguments earlier this month, after which the verdict was reserved by ATC-3 Judge Mahmoodul Hassan Khattak.

The verdict in the Mashal Khan case comes just a day after a third-year student at Bahawalpur’s Government Sadiq Egerton College allegedly stabbed a professor to death over what he vaguely described as the academic’s “anti-Islam” remarks.

According to Associate professor Khalid Hameed’s son, the attacker said he had killed him because Hameed supported holding a scheduled ‘welcome party’ for students in which he claimed “obscenity is promoted”.

Hameed’s son said his father’s murder was the result of “brainwashing” and raised questions about the government’s efforts to curb extremism in society.

Former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif had tweeted that the teacher’s murder at the hands of a student because of a difference in opinion was “a moment of reflection for the entire nation”.

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