It has been a year that a mob killed Mashal Khan. His family still awaits justice.
The mob included students and campus staff of Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University, where 23-year-old Mashal studied journalism. They killed him over accusations of blasphemy. Investigators found all such allegations to be false.
Today (Thursday) is his first death anniversary. Vigils are scheduled for today in many cities to remember the slain student. Mashal is revered in progressive circles.
However, little has been done to satisfy his family.
Initially, the murder case was heard by anti-terrorism court set up in Mardan’s Central Jail. However, the case was shifted to special ATC, Abbottabad on request by Mashal’s father, Muhammad Iqbal.
As many as 25 hearings of the case were held from September 2017 to January 2018 and 68 witnesses appeared before the court that reserved its ruling on January 30.
On February 7, the court handed death sentence to Imran Ali, who shot at Mashal under Section-302 and Section 7 of ATA and slapped him a fine worth Rs150,000. The court sentenced 25 years to five others- Bilal Bux, Fazal Razzaq, Mujeebullah, Ashfaq Khan and Mudassir Bashir. It set free 26 others over lack of evidence and handed three years in jail to 25 others.
Mardan’s university where Mashal studied remained close for several months with academic staff suspended.
The verdict did not sit well with the family.
“How can the court release some of the killers who broke my son’s head, hands and shoulders [and were caught] on camera?” asked his mother. She termed the verdict an “incomplete justice”.
Mashal’s brother, Aimal Khan, said all those who participated in the mob violence deserved punishment.
The family filed six appeals, demanding equal sentences for all the convicts for having the same intention.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government also challenged the acquittals. They filed three petitions calling for enhancing the sentences of all the convicts in the case.
On the other hand, a number of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl and Jamaat-e-Islami workers showered rose petals on the 26 acquitted men on the day the verdict was announced. They called them ‘ghazis’ and ‘heroes’.
Three weeks after the verdict, the Peshawar High Court granted bail to the 25 convicts who were handed three years in prison. One principle accused, Asad Katlang, is also on pre-arrest bail till April 16. Katlang, a university employee, had been absconding for a year.
The Peshawar High Court has also ordered the transfer of all the appeals submitted against the ATC’s verdict to Peshawar.