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Only memories are left of Mashal, the idealist who always wanted to learn more

Updated Apr 18, 2017 02:55pm


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A mob lynched Mashal Khan last week at the premises of his university on the allegation of blasphemy. Factually, the statement is accurate, but reducing the incident to newspeak is simplistic and incomplete, for it fails to capture what Mashal's life story was.

Mashal was cousin to a friend of mine. I talked to him the day after Mashal was killed, and what he told me shattered me into pieces.

Mashal's father, Iqbal Shayar, didn't have a stable source of income but he was always ready to do any kind of work in order to put food on the table for his family. He is also a poet. A man of letters, he never let poverty be an affront to his family's dignity and instilled in his children the love for reading and critical thinking.

On the same topic: I've known Salman Haider for 14 years and he is not anti-Islam

It was hard for the father to pay for his son's formal schooling, but it was a struggle he undertook with pride. Mashal went to the Institute of Computer and Management Sciences on a scholarship and got the best marks in F.Sc at his college. He then secured a partial scholarship to study engineering in Moscow but unfortunately had to return to Pakistan after just one year since his family was unable to pay for the rest of his degree.

After coming back, Mashal didn't follow the conventions and look for a job. He had other convictions. He believed that he would be more useful to society if he went into civil services, so he enrolled into Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan to do a Master’s in mass media and journalism and prepare for his civil services exams.

Mashal’s father supported his son’s decision. Given the financial hardships, it would have made more sense for Mashal to work and support his family financially. Yet, his father didn’t stand in the way of his son’s noble desire to continue studying. This is what enlightened people do; they prefer idealism, public service and social betterment over material gains.

But the mob that killed him had a different vision. Mobs don’t appear out of a vacuum and public violence is never apolitical. Rather, mobs are products of a long process of social engineering. They are conditioned into self-righteousness by a constant of stream of villainous ideas and statements, whereby a beautiful soul like Mashal is dehumanised to the point that his lynching became a necessity and a celebration.

Read more: Khurram Zaki - The voice that spoke for the dead

Mobs go on rampage to silence those who dissent. Their goal is to publically reinforce the boundaries of what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. A mob can become active at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t wait for or need proof; if it smells blood, it unleashes itself.

After Mashal’s death, I wondered if it was just a matter of him being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The answer was ‘no.’ Mobs are products of a society that wants conformity; an inquisitive and humanistic person like Mashal was always in danger of facing its wrath no matter where and when.

Mob violence is also a collective loss – last week it was Mashal, before him there have been many others, and next week it can be any of us who is killed on mere suspicion of blasphemy.

As if exploitation of blasphemy laws by mobs wasn’t enough, instrumentalisation of this law by the state to silence dissent and criticism has added to its misuse. As long as the state thinks that it’s justified in regulating people’s opinions by using the blasphemy card, lives of people like Mashal will continue to be the collateral damage of this policy.

Mashal’s father has kept his composure. When I listen to him, I’m amazed by his strength and perseverance. He insists that his son did no wrong and that he educated him, despite all the hardships, to make him a useful member of the society. Being a poet that he is, he reinforces his words by reciting Pashtu and Urdu verses. One phrase that he said about Mashal is still ringing in my ears: “sunrays can’t be chained.”

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Hurmat Ali Shah is a freelance writer who writes on politics, society and culture. He currently is pursing a PhD degree.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (25) Closed

TQ Apr 18, 2017 11:16am

A very big percentage of Pakistani parents who send their kids to school and University are hardworking people. They do not have political connections or any business incomes, they are either in public service, private jobs or very small scale stalls etc.

Yet they send their kids to school to study as they are their only hope that maybe in their old age the kids may help them since Pakistan is not a welfare state that helps people who are old and poor.

Mashal was a bright kid and belonged to a poor family. Ofcourse we coming from poor famillies question the system and we do question everything as this is the right of all humans.

Take a close look at the pics of Mashal's father, look at his will feel the pain and the anguish at the loss of his loving son. We as fathers can feel a fraction of the pain what Mashal's father is feeling and going through.

Pukudenguta Apr 18, 2017 01:33pm

Mashal Khan should now become a symbol, and the entire youth of Pakistan should strive to eradicate violence from the society.

Osayed Rehman Apr 18, 2017 02:38pm

I am Mashal Khan...Pakistan is Mashal Khan!!

Indopak Apr 18, 2017 02:40pm

Omg. Very sad to read .May god give strength to his father .I really feel bad for Mashal. Unnecessary loss of such a young lige

ravi Apr 18, 2017 04:33pm

Oh so sad. May allah give his father peace

Syed WAQAR ALI Apr 18, 2017 05:11pm

So sad that such a heinous and inhuman crime emanated from the teaching faculty and administration of a top seat of learning and executed by them. Because of his leftist leaning, he was rusticated by the university.

Iftikhar khan Apr 18, 2017 05:49pm

Very well said and analyzed. Yes... it is a product of social engineering, Pakistan has mortgaged its society for some very silly objectives, usually countries have objectives designed to safeguard society but in Pakistan it is the other way around.

KB Apr 18, 2017 06:26pm

This is the failing of the Federal and provincial governments. Mobs know that they can do whatever they want under the guise of blasphemy law. The governments have allowed the murder of people and the governments should be held responsible.

The guilty must be charged with murder, and aiding and abetting murder and an exemplary punishment should be given, so that no one can dare take the law in their own hands.

It is the state responsibility to protect its citizens and the Governments have failed to do that.

N_Saq Apr 18, 2017 06:37pm

That is why I keep on saying that using the religion card is a very dangerous thing, there is no place for religion in government or politics because once this genie is out of the box it is impossible to put it back again (a lot is to be sacrificed before you can put it back again and I think Pak is beginning to understand it). Its benefits are short and before you know it boomerang and come back to haunt you as no one is perfect.

My point being, Mullahs and so called Scholars/Ulema wanted to enact the blasphemy law to use it against the minorities so that they can punish them without understanding the consequences and the government went along with it to appease them, however, now everyone can see how quickly it boomeranged and came to haunt us all as now no one can speak against it because they are afraid of their own fate yet it is terrorizing the entire population.

This war against the mindset Pak cannot lose but politicians here are failing the nation miserably.

Shaziah zuberi washington dc Apr 18, 2017 06:57pm

Mashal Khan should be mourned as young progressive boy who had a zest for life. That's what the extremists disliked about him. My view is that before they target another innocent idealistic and progressive, we need to stop them immediately!!! Apr 18, 2017 07:35pm

What I see and observe is this: Hundreds of minority people were killed in the last 10 to 20 years, nobody ever bothered. Their colonies after colonies were burnt to ashes. Nobody did anything for them, not even writing an article like you did.
And NOW... I am sure the whole world expressed their sharp disapproval and criticised Pakistani behaviour towards minorities. The credit of all good things, that are happening now for minorities, does not justifiable go to our government or to clerics. Thank the civilized world!

Nauman M Apr 18, 2017 08:34pm

@N_Saq Well expressed.

Roshan Apr 18, 2017 08:57pm

Pakistan did not deserve Mashal Khan.

MALIK Apr 18, 2017 09:09pm That is not true. We the silent majority always condemn the killing of innocent regardless of their belonging to a particular religion or a minority.

DR. HIKMATULLAH BABU SAHIB Apr 18, 2017 10:30pm

Inna Lillahi wa-inna ilayhi Rajiun. May the departed soul find peace and refuge in Him!. It is unfortunate that such rash acts take place repeatedly unchecked. It is a true case of emotion taking the better of reason. I am sure there is little room for individuals with inquisitive and independent mind to articulate his idealism without serious repercussion, particularly in a society that is fixated on some opinions and views that were deeply embedded into the subconscious minds of emotionally-charged individuals who have little time to think through the consequences of their actions. What saddens me the most is the collusion of people in protecting the identity of the killers. I hope the authorities in Pakistan will apprehend all those actors involved in this inhumane act committed in the day light within the vicinity of the campus. It is indeed a public shame that the society has grown highly intolerant of alternative truth.

tauseef Apr 19, 2017 12:10am

Sorry Mashal, We could not save you from the injustice of barbaric mob.

Riaz memon Apr 19, 2017 02:22am

We love u. May your soul rest in peace. Ameen

MK Apr 19, 2017 09:38am

Mashal was obviously not a villain, far from it. Did they accuse him of blasphemy simply because he was too different from them and they couldn't understand him? His father and family and dear ones did not deserve this, that he be taken from them. Mashal did not deserve this, it can never be justified. What does any of this have to do with religion is beyond me. This seems to be a dangerous form of terrorism. If you think about it, all terrorists and extremists seem to be against certain things and it goes beyond preaching of religion but it's more likely a personal agenda speaking. Be it music, dance, intermingling of the sexes, women's empowerment and independence, the list goes on...

haider Apr 19, 2017 01:18pm

Mashal Khan's FB history says it all.

Hassan Parvez Apr 19, 2017 09:11pm

@Syed WAQAR ALI Please keep Mashal Khan alive. Media will forget about him after the SC verdict tomorrow only we the people can keep writing about him to keep his memory fresh in our minds, may be then Mashal's parents will get justice.

Zeeshan Apr 19, 2017 10:50pm

Thank You Hurmat for writing and standing up for the truth. Marshal Khan is a true hero.

white noise Apr 20, 2017 06:05am

he wanted to make a difference, and he just did !! RIP Young one !!!

as for his killers, you have no idea what awaits you, you scum

wasim Apr 20, 2017 03:40pm

after all that want to name school after them, how low can they go, really

Logic Apr 20, 2017 05:02pm

What a great tragedy.....University students and admin accomplices have taken a life of a fellow student......rather a university has to be a place where differences of opinion must be considered as an asset.

Mudassar Ahmed Apr 20, 2017 08:27pm

Mashal means "torch" that lightens the life of others. Mashal is the name of a feeling which will live forever enlightening the heart of every human being. That feeling can never be killed. God bless his soul and give patience to the bereaved family.