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PESHAWAR: The provincial government has no objection to the sought-after transfer of the Mashal Khan lynching case from Mardan’s anti-terrorism court to some other in the province and the holding of trial inside prison, advocate general Abdul Lateef Yousafzai told a Peshawar High Court bench on Thursday.

However, a lawyer for several suspects arrested in the case said his client opposed the plea of Mashal’s father, Iqbal Khan, for the case’s transfer and that they wanted to become respondents in the petition.

While adjourning the hearing until further orders, Chief Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Abdul Shakoor asked the lawyer to file his clients’ written objections to the petition with the court.

They also asked the government to produce the case’s records.

Iqbal Khan had filed the petition under Section 28 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, which empowers the court to transfer a case from one ATC to another if it is in the interest of justice.

His lawyer, Muzamil Khan, requested the bench to ask the prosecution not to submit charge sheet (challan) of the case to the ATC in Mardan until the disposal of his petition.

The bench observed that it had already ordered the production of records.

Mashal, a 23-year-old student of the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, was lynched by a mob, including students, staff members and outsiders on campus, on Apr 13 on the charge of blasphemy.

His father said in the petition that the open trial in such a sensitive matter was not possible and therefore, the trial should be conducted inside the jail to protect witnesses, lawyers and judges from any harm.

He said a number of accused, witnesses and lawyers were involved in the case and therefore, the trial won’t conclude in many months.

The petitioner feared that the trial in Mardan would create a ‘serious situation’ pressuring both witnesses and the petitioner into making a compromise and forcing the prosecution witnesses into changing their statements.

He said most of the accused belonged to Mardan and the prevailing atmosphere in the district was not congenial to outsiders.

The petitioner requested the court to order the transfer of the case to ATC either in Haripur or other appropriate district in the province and the holding of the trial inside the respective central prison.

In petition, Mashal’s father said the case was examined by a joint investigation team and that it was reported in the media that investigation was complete and the case’s challan had been given to the district public prosecutor of Mardan for production in Mardan’s ATC.

He insisted that in a bid to cover up the real motive behind Mashal’s killing, the deceased was accused of having committed blasphemy.

“The blasphemy charge has been proved wrong and fabricated in the JIT investigation,” he said, adding that the allegation turned the case into one of a sensitive nature.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2017