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PTI councillor among two more men handed life in jail over lynching of Mashal Khan

Updated March 21, 2019

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Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old Mass Communication student at Mardan's Abdul Wali Khan University, was lynched in 2017 by a mob that accused him of blasphemy. ─ Photo courtesy Mashal Khan Facebook
Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old Mass Communication student at Mardan's Abdul Wali Khan University, was lynched in 2017 by a mob that accused him of blasphemy. ─ Photo courtesy Mashal Khan Facebook

Two more men were sentenced to multiple counts of life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court on Thursday for their involvement in the 2017 lynching of Mashal Khan.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf tehsil councillor Arif Khan and varsity employee Asad Khan Katlang were given four counts each of life imprisonment by ATC Judge Mehmoodul Hassan Khattak. Two other suspects identified as Sabir Mayar and Izharullah were acquitted by the court.

The written judgement issued today stated that, given the witness statements and supporting videos, photos and crime scene recoveries, it is "crystal clear" that PTI tehsil councillor Arif provoked and instigated a mob of students against Mashal.

Arif did this by "delivering provocative speeches", and even took "an active part in his murder by hatching a criminal conspiracy", following which "unlawful assembly was made for using criminal force and violence, which resulted in the barbaric death of Mashal".

The judgement noted: "The prosecution has been successful to bring home the charges levelled against him beyond shadow of any reasonable doubt, because the conspiracy to commit murder was generally not hatched in open places or within the view or hearing of outsiders, and it can be inferred from the facts and circumstances of the case, and no one should be permitted to take the law into his own hands on the pretext of punishing infidels."

Additionally, the judgement noted that Katlang was an "active participant of the aggravated infuriated mob and illegal assembly", and was clearly spotted kicking and hitting Mashal in various videos "so he is also convicted".

With respect to Sabir Mayar and Izharullah, "The prosecution could not be able to bring home any cogent and convincing reliable evidence against them, and nor they are seen in any video clips [...] hence these two are acquitted of all charges against them," the judgement said.

Details of sentences:

Arif Khan

  • Under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) Section 120-B/149: Life imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine/6 months in jail
  • Under PPC Section 148/149: Three years rigorous imprisonment (RI)
  • Under PPC Section 302/149: Life imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine/6 months jail
  • Under Anti-Terrorism Act Section 7: Life imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine/6 months jail
  • Under PPC Section 297/149: One year RI
  • Under ATA Section 11-WW: Three years RI
  • Under ATA Section 21(I): Life imprisonment

Asad Katlang

  • Under PPC Section 120-B/149: Life imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine/6 months in jail
  • Under PPC Section 148/149: Three years RI
  • Under PPC Section 302/149: Life imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine/6 months in jail
  • Under ATA Section 7(1)(a): Life imprisonment and Rs100,000 fine/6 months in jail
  • Under PPC Section 297/149: One year RI
  • Under ATA Section 11-WW: Three years RI
  • Under ATA Section 21(I): Life imprisonment

All the above mentioned sentences shall run concurrently.

The lynching of Mashal Khan

Mashal Khan, 23, 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 accused of blasphemy.

The lynching took place within the premises of the university and was caught on video which later circulated on social media. The horrific incident shocked the nation and sparked a debate over the misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. In June 2017, a 13-member joint investigation team (JIT) concluded in its report that the allegations of blasphemy against Mashal were unfounded and were used as a pretext to incite a mob against the slain student.

The JIT had found that Mashal was vocal about the rights of students at the university and had even challenged the appointment of a new vice chancellor (VC) at the university to ensure that students were able to obtain their degrees, which is not possible without the VC's signature. The investigation also revealed that illegal and criminal activities persisted in the university hostel and female students were also exploited in the university.

Days before he was lynched by the mob, Mashal in an interview to Khyber news channel, had spoken against activities at the university and the administration. According to the report, Sabir Mayar viewed Mashal's stance against activities on campus to be a threat to the Pakhtun Students Federation, of which he was president.

A total of 61 people suspected of involvement in the lynching ─ the majority of them students and university employees and a PTI tehsil councillor ─ were charged in the first information report. Out of these, 57 were sentenced by a court on February 7, 2018.

Case proceedings started on June 21, 2018, once the absconding suspects surrendered themselves to the court of law. Both sides finished their arguments earlier this month, after which the verdict was reserved by ATC-3 Judge Khattak.