ISLAMABAD: Developments taking place after the tragic lynching of Mashal Khan have created a ray of hope that the youth of Pakistan may change the future of the country.

This was stated by Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bushra Gohar at a seminar, ‘The politics of extremism and how to fight it’ organised by the Awami Workers Party (AWP) at the National Press Club on Friday.

Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, was killed by a mob on the premises of the university over blasphemy allegations on April 13.

Ms Gohar said when Mashal Khan’s body reached his hometown Swabi the local police started pressuring the family to bury it in a ditch after midnight. In the meantime, she added, announcements were made from mosques asking people not to participate in his funeral.

“However, some youngsters took a stance and said they would offer the funeral prayer. Because of their bold stance not only the funeral prayer was held but also the residents started visiting the family and apologised for not participating in the funeral,” she said.

“Though PTI chief went to Swabi but he called the family at the helipad to offer fateha. On the other hand, the ambassador of Afghanistan visited the house of Mashal Khan.”

Moreover, she added, a large number of people spoke against the killing and openly termed it an act of terrorism. The chief justice of Pakistan also took suo motu notice, Ms Gohar said.

These developments give us a ray of hope because in the past no one had the courage to speak in favour of people who were killed because of false blasphemy allegations, she said.

However, Ms Gohar said it was worrying that Mashal Khan was killed on the premises of a university by students belonging to all political parties.

“Moreover, the provincial government is pro-Taliban and gives funds to a person who claims to be the father of Taliban. I suggest that the blasphemy law should be repealed and parliament should not become hostage to a handful of extremists,” she said.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said there was a mindset due to which even educated people spoke and supported extremists.

“We should not forget that educated people, including a former chief justice, supported Mumtaz Qadri who assassinated Salman Taseer. We need to realise that the incident took place in a university not in a seminary. Lack of tolerance has become a part of our DNA,” he said.

Mr Babar said religion and state had been mixed in the country by declaring Islam as the state religion. Violence takes place in the name of religion and there is a mindset that all non-Muslims should live like slaves, he said.

AWP Punjab chapter president Asim Sajjad said in the curriculum of primary schools it was mentioned that every good Pakistani was a Muslim.

“If Christians stop cleaning the federal capital, the city will be filled with litter. On the other hand, children of Christian are discouraged when they try to get admission to the model schools in Islamabad,” he said.

“A majority of people do not try to resist extremists. Mashal Khan tried to resist extremists but he was killed. Just minutes after such incidents the media starts claiming that foreign elements are involved in it,” he said.

Mr Sajjad said that in 1983 the Ziaul Haq regime began the process of rewriting history by inculcating extremist ideas among the educated youth when it doctored the curriculum and banned student unions.

Journalist Hamid Mir said problems were increasing as the media tried to sensationalise news.

“Unfortunately, the objective of many media houses is to sell their products rather than contributing to any healthy development in society,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2017