Mashal Khan Case: PHC attenuates convict’s death sentence into life imprisonment

Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday, attenuated convict’s death sentence into life imprisonment in 2017 Mishal Khan lynching case.

According to details, a PHC bench commuted the death penalty of the prime convict in Mashal Khan lynching case into life imprisonment.

The convict had filed a plea seeking relief in his sentence.

Meanwhile, the court has upheld the life imprisonment sentences of seven other convicts along with 25-years of imprisonment for three others.

Furthermore, PHC announced its verdict against the release of 25 other individuals in the case and has ordered their re-arrest and has also upheld their three-year prison sentence.

The verdict was in-fact reserved on September 20th and was announced by Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Syed Atiq Shah.

2017 Mashal Khan Lynching

Mashal Khan was a Pashtun and Muslim student at the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, Pakistan who was killed by an angry mob in the premises of the university on 13 April 2017, over allegations of posting blasphemous content online.

Before his death Mashal Khan criticized the Abdul Wali Khan University but none of his comments mentioned religion or contained blasphemy. He revealed that the vice-chancellor never attended the university and students were forced to study in uncertainty of whether or not they would receive the degrees for which they were studying. He criticized teachers, accused them of bureaucracy and said that a single faculty member was in charge of multiple responsibilities.

On 13 April 2017, the assistant registrar posted an official notice on the online board announcing that three students were under investigation for blasphemous activities, and had been suspended.

A large group of students formed into a mob, accusing these students of running a Facebook page where Mashal was allegedly publishing blasphemous material. Mashal was killed inside the premises of the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan where he was a student of mass communication.

He was in the hostel of the university when he was stripped naked and severely beaten by a group of students and then shot. He succumbed to his injuries.

On the following day April 14th, Mashal Khan’s funeral was led by his father, a local poet. Most neighbors kept away from the funeral, as threats made earlier by a local to anyone attending led them to fear follow-up attacks from religious mob.

Investigation and JIT Report

According to police investigations, Mashal Khan had not carried out any blasphemous action. The Inspector General (IG) Police stated “We did not find any concrete evidence under which an investigation or legal action can be launched against Mashal, Abdullah or Zubair.”

On 21 April, AWKUM’s superintendent and office’s assistant were imprisoned on judicial remand whereas some of the accused were sent to the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC).

The 13-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in response to the lynching gave its final report on 3 June 2017. The report cleared Mashal of all blasphemy charges and termed his lynching a premeditated murder conducted by certain elements in the student body and the university administration.

The report also cleared Mashal’s two friends, Abdullah and Zubair, of any blasphemy.

Furthermore, the JIT report named Sabir Mayer, president of the Pukhtoon Students Federation, and Ajmal Khan, president of the university’s employee union as the two prime suspects in the case.

Ajmal confessed that a month before the lynching, Sabir, along with a university employee, Asad Katlang, came to his office and told him that they had to “get rid of Mashal” as he was a “threat to the party” (the ‘party’ is presumed to be the leftist political party, Awami National Party, whose student federation Sabir headed). The trio then proceeded to hatch a plan for Mashal’s murder.

Sentencing

On 7 February 2018, Anti-Terrorism court awarded death penalty to prime suspect Imran Ali. Imran Ali had confessed that he had shot Mashal Khan. Meanwhile, five other convicts named Bilal Bakhsh, Fazal-i-Raziq, Mujeebullah, Ishfaq Khan and Mudassir Bashir were awarded life-time imprisonment, whereas 25 other convicts were awarded 4-year jail sentences.

Two of the suspects named Arif Khan and Asad Khan were awarded life imprisonment in the Mashal Khan lynching case hile two others named Sabir Mayar and Izharullah were acquitted over lack of evidence.

Father of Mashal Khan had expressed satisfaction with the Anti-Terrorism verdict. However, he claimed that he will challenge the acquittal of two suspects.