Following the murder of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan (AWKUM) student Mashal Khan over blasphemy allegations Thursday afternoon, several political leaders expressed their deepest condolences and condemned his killing in strong words.

The 23-year-old was killed and another seriously injured on the university premises by a vigilante mob for allegedly "publishing blasphemous content online." Government officials said there is no evidence to suggest that the deceased student had committed blasphemy.

Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif's statement came late on Saturday afternoon. He vehemently opposed the idea of self-imposed vigilantes and directed action against those found involved in the incident, ordering police to arrest all those who were responsible.

"The nation should stand united to condemn this crime and to promote tolerance and rule of law in the society," he said.

"Let it be known to the perpetrators of this act that the state shall not tolerate citizens taking the law in their own hands," he warned.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan was the first to issue a strong condemnation of the act, saying: "[The] law of the jungle can't prevail."

Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Prime Minister Sharif, expressed shock after seeing the video of the lynching.

Khawaja Asif, federal minister for water and power, asked for the law to be enforced upon the culprits.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman was moved by Mashal's father's speech on TV and questioned the federal government on maintaining silence over the incident.

Bakhtawar Bhutto, daughter of PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, hoped that the accused are tried for murder.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi shared the same opinion, saying he believes the culprits should be made an example of as a lesson for others.

PPP's official Twitter account was also vehement in condemning the incident.

Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan pointed out that though the nation sympathises with the victim and condemns the murder, all of the accused have still not been arrested.

Another PTI member, MNA Asad Umer reflected on the increasing intolerance in society.

Sharmila Faruqi, PPP lawmaker, was horrified at the justification of Mashal's murder in the name of Islam.

Shireen Mazari on Twitter said: "That is our tragedy today - a murderous zealotry has made us devoid of a basic sense of humanity."

In a press statement, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said such incidents in universities were a big threat to educational institutions and that the government should take adequate steps to check such incidents in future. He expressed sympathies with the parents and the family of the victim.

A horrific attack

23-year-old AWKUM student Mashal was killed and another student, Abdullah, seriously injured on Thursday after a vigilante mob attacked them for allegedly "publishing blasphemous content online".

No case had been filed against the two students prior to the incident and police had not been investigating the two on blasphemy charges.

The mob instead seems to have been incited by rumours circulating among the university's student body.

An eyewitness said the mob had first surrounded Abdullah and forced him to recite verses from the Holy Quran, then proceeded to beat him bloody.

The police, when alerted, reached the site of the incident and rescued Abdullah, after which the mob turned on Mashal, who was in his hostel at the time, the eyewitness said.

Mashal was first shot, then beaten with wooden planks till he succumbed to his injuries. The mob had also wanted to burn his body before police intervened, a senior police official had said.

A local Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Mardan on Saturday remanded the eight suspects caught so far in the lynching case to police custody for four days.

Local police had produced the eight before the court amid high security.

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