Dozens charged over Pakistan 'blasphemy' killing at university

Vigilante mob face murder charges over campus killing of student Mashal Khan

September 20, 2017
Map of Pakistan
Source: iStock

Almost 60 people have been indicted for the murder of a Pakistani university student who was falsely accused of blasphemy.

All of the 57 people accused of killing Mashal Khan, a journalism student at the Abdul Wali Khan University at Mardan in north-eastern Pakistan, have pleaded not guilty to murder, the Hindustan Times reported on 19 September.

They are accused of joining a lynch mob which seized the 23-year-old from his dormitory before he was stripped, beaten and shot by fellow students on April 13. Several students filmed the murder – the first blasphemy killing at a Pakistani university – on their mobile phones, the Indian paper said.

Strict security measures were put in place around Haripur jail where the trial of the accused is being conducted. In July, chief justice Yahya Afridi of the Peshawar high court had ordered the transfer of the murder case to an anti-terrorism court after Mr Khan's father sought the move, saying he feared his "influential adversaries", the publication explained.

A report compiled by a joint investigation team that probed the lynching said that a group of faculty members and student leaders within the university had incited a mob against Mr Khan by using the pretext of blasphemy. It added no proof was found that the victim had ever posted offensive material online.

Mr Khan's death follows his publication of several stories about alleged corruption at the university, in which he criticised rising tuition fees and the institution's senior leadership.

The lynching has led to widespread protests across Pakistan over the past few months, with human rights groups and political parties demanding an impartial investigation into the incident. Prime minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned the murder, while the prominent religious leader Mufti Naeem has called Mr Khan a martyr.

Mr Khan’s university also caused outrage after it launched an investigation into his alleged blasphemy, rather than the murder. The institution’s provost, however, quickly reversed the institution’s actions, saying the report had been “a clerical error”, the Guardian reported.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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