Is the Mashal Khan lynching case verdict exemplary or worrisome?

The sentences ranged from three-year jail terms to life sentences, death penalty and acquittals.
Published February 7, 2018

23-year-old Mashal Khan, a student of Mass Communications at Mardan's Abdul Wali Khan University, was beaten and shot to death by an angry mob on April 13, 2017, after he was falsely accused of blasphemy.

Earlier today, a Haripur Anti-Terrorism Court announced its verdict on the lynching case, handing one person a death sentence, five life imprisonments, 25 others to three years in jail, and acquitting 26 others.

Renowned experts give their take on the verdict:

'26 suspects being acquitted is worrisome' — Hamid Mir

I am surprised. In this case, the video footage is clear and the evidence damning.

Lots of people raised their voices against Mashal Khan. They expressed pride; certainly they were astray, but despite everything, they murdered an innocent man, celebrated his murder, and made promises to each other to cover it up.

Harsh punishment was only handed out to six people. One absconder is linked to the ruling party in the province and must be arrested.

The punishment does not add up to the number of people visible in the footage. There were a lot more than just five or six people. They should at least get three to four years each.

Perhaps Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) police didn’t investigate thoroughly enough. Maybe the prosecutor didn’t present a convincing argument.

It was a straightforward case and the video shows clearly who had organised the lynching and who had incited violence.

Students from the university spoke to TV channels. Mashal’s friends, brother, and father have evidence.

If you look at all the information available, then 26 suspects being acquitted is worrisome. It should be a point of grave concern for the KP government. If this was done to protect certain politically connected people, it is unjust.

'Ensure that no such event occurs in the future' — Zahid Hussain

The murder was a gruesome incident, and an example should have been set through an exemplary verdict, but the more important issue at hand is to eliminate the fostering of such an environment in which such types of tragedies occur.

Therefore, the more pressing issue now, is to ensure that no such event occurs in the future, and we take concrete measures in this regard.

In universities, slogans were chanted in favour of the killers and in such an enabling atmosphere, incidents like Mashal's murder are prone to happen.

'Even the provincial government isn't satisfied with the decision' — Jibran Nasir

The fact that the KP government has decided to, according to media reports, appeal against all acquittals is worrisome and shows that even the provincial government isn't satisfied with the decision.

Mashal's father told me about the mayor belonging to the Awami National Party, harassing the witnesses but so far no legal action against the mayor has been taken either.

'The verdict fell short of expectations' — Owais Tohid

Since Mashal’s was the worst case of religious vigilantism, a landmark verdict was expected.

It fell short of expectations not only for the grief-stricken family but also for those who want to see this land cleansed of religious fanaticism.

How can the ones caught on camera beating and dragging Mashal, and congratulating each other, be set free?

Like Burhan Wani of Kashmir and Naqeebullah, prince of Waziristan, I believe Mashal has also become a symbolic figure.

Mashal's brutal murder has been a trial for the judiciary, political parties, the government, the state and our whole society.

The murder has exposed the tiers of society inflicted with extremism — be it mainstream political, nationalist, or religious parties, or university staff, as their fingerprints were found all over the case.

Such tragic incidents leave a trail of tears, grief and sorrow but also pave the way for lessons to be learnt.

Have we, as a society, learnt the lesson to not stand by silently and witness such a brutal incident ever again?

Have we built a firewall against the misuse of blasphemy allegations and religious fanaticism?

Sadly, not really.