Haripur (Pakistan), February 7 (Global Village Space): A Pakistani Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) here on Wednesday sentenced one person to death, five to 25years in jail, 25 to four years in prison in the Mashal Khan lynching case. .
The ATC judge Fazal Khan Subhan announced the verdict against each of the 57 arrested suspects amid tight security around the Haripur Central Jail.
The prime accused Imran Ali, who had confessed to shooting Mashal, has been given the death sentence and fined 150,000 rupees.
Bilal Bakhsh, Fazal Razaq, Mujeebullah, Ashfaq Khan and Mudassir Bashir were given 25 years in jail.
The counsel for the defense has announced to challenge the ATC decision on Thursday.
Mashal Khan was a 23 year old Mass Communications student in Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) Mardan. He was lynched by an angry mob over blasphemy allegations on 13th April 2017.
Videos of his lynching were released on social media creating a huge outrage in the country. The lynching took place in the premises of the university and hundreds of students were present during the tragic incident.
On June 2017, a thirteen member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed to probe Mashal Khan’s case. The team found that the allegations of blasphemy against Mashal were unfounded and he was declared innocent by the JIT.
The report made by the JIT declared that the murder was premeditated and politically motivated.
While speaking to media outside the ATC, Mashal’s brother Aimal Khan hoped that no one would have to suffer the same ordeal as his family. He expressed satisfaction about the security arrangements made for the family and added that his family had received no threats.
Aimal Khan told the media that he will consult his lawyers to determine whether they are satisfied with the verdict or not. He appealed to the Khyber Pakhtunwala provincial police to arrest the remaining suspects and bring then to justice.
Aimal reminded Imran Khan of his promise to rename Swabi University after Mashal and asked him to act upon his promise.
Iqbal Khan, the father of Mashal Khan, was very optimistic that justice will be rendered. Supporters of Mashal Khan were present outside the Haripur jail during the hearing.
50 witnesses had recorded their statements in the case including Mashal’s father, teachers and friends. Video recordings and pictures of the incident were also presented to the court as evidence that the suspects were involved in the murder. The verdict of the case was reserved on 27th January by the ATC. The court completed the hearing in 5 months and 10 days.
The hearing of the case started in a Mardan court but was later shifted to an ATC on the orders of the Peshawar High Court (PHC). The case was transferred on the request of Mashal Khan’s father, who stated that his influential adversaries would try to sabotage the proceedings.
The JIT report said that the plan for Mashal’s murder was hatched by Sabir Mayar, President of Pashtun Student Federation (PSF) which is the student wing of Awami National Party (ANP), and Ajmal Mayar, the President of the employees at AKMU.
Mashal was vocal about the rights of students in AKMU which created a hurdle for the employees and the PSF.
Mashal also raised his voice about the unavailability of a Vice Chancellor (VC) in the university who is needed to sign the degrees of students. He raised his voice about the mismanagement and corruption in the university campus.
The JIT report revealed corrupt and illegal activities that persisted in the campus and the exploitation of female students in the university.
Mashal Khan’s brutal murder exposed the level of violence and intolerance that is present in Pakistani society. Civil society activists have raised their voice against the misuse of the blasphemy law for personal vengeance against innocents.
Human rights activists are demanding the same punishment for false blasphemy accusations as that of the blasphemy law.
The activists also demand that irrespective of the nature and gravity of the crime, no citizen should be allowed to take the law into his own hands. They believe that it is irrelevant whether Mashal had committed blasphemy or not. His lynching is equally condemnable and the fact that it was executed by university students makes it even more unpardonable.
If someone had committed an act of blasphemy, they should be punished after due process of the law since everyone is innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
All sections of society have expressed their concern over the prevalent mob justice in society. People appeared to have lost faith in the law enforcement agencies of the court so they take the law into their own hands.
Civil society activists have demanded a change in the curriculum of schools and colleges to promote tolerance in the society and faith in the law enforcement agencies.
Civil society has also requested the government to probe the irregularities in AWKU and take notice of the corruption taking place inside the university against which Mashal Khan raised his voice and ultimately lost his life.
(The featured image at the top is that of Mashal Khan the Pakistani university student who was lynched for alleged blasphemy by fellow students and university staff)