ISLAMABAD: Members of civil society take part in a demonstration on the second death anniversary of Mashal Khan on Saturday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: Members of civil society take part in a demonstration on the second death anniversary of Mashal Khan on Saturday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

SWABI: The second death anniversary of Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University who was lynched by a mob, was held here on Saturday.

A large number of people, including politicians, visited Mashal’s grave and home where his family held Khatm-ul-Quran.

The mob of angry people, mostly students of the same university, attacked Mashal on the university’s premises on April 13, 2017, after accusing him of committing blasphemy.

Later, a joint investigation team found Mashal innocent and cleared him of blasphemy charges. The team also said that his murder was the result of a well-planned conspiracy.

Read more: We will make sure no one misuses the blasphemy law again: Imran Khan

Speaking to reporters on the occasion, Mashal’s father, Iqbal Khan, and his mother said that there should be no violence in campuses anywhere in the country. They said that there should be complete peace and calmness in educational institutions so that students could focus on their studies.

The grieving parents said they did not want another son of the soil fall victim to brutality and false allegations.

The mother told this correspondent that the blood of her son had given courage to people to speak against brutality and injustice. She said the loss of Mashal was unbearable, but the support of people had given her courage and infused the spirit of struggle in her. “Mashal (means flaming torch in English) did not get extinguished. It is still alive, spreading the rays of peace and tranquillity in all directions.”

She was beside herself with grief when she talked about the day Mashal was murdered and his battered body was brought to their home. “When I saw the body of my beloved son, I could not recognise him. I could never ever forget those moments. We were completely devastated.”

Iqbal Khan said Mashal was a true believer in non-violence philosophy and he had always opposed the use of violence for propagating ideas.

Answering a question, he said: “My son is a martyr of education. Because of his peaceful and realistic approach he will always be remembered by peace-loving people.”

The father said his son used to say that those who believed in peaceful struggle never faced defeat and always emerged victorious. “Peace is a mark of strength, and not of weakness,” he quoted him as once saying.

Iqbal Khan said his martyred son always stressed the need for promotion of education and said that only education could pave the way for progress and development of the country.

The father said the government should take measures for maintaining a peaceful environment in educational institutions across the country and called for an action against those who used violence for propagating their ideas.

He said he was satisfied with the court’s verdict in the Mashal murder case. In the judgement announced recently, the court sentenced two accused to life imprisonment and set two others free.

Meanwhile, sources said that a big gathering was being planned by students to mark Mashal’s second death anniversary in Peshawar on April 21.

‘Mashal March’

Our staff reporters add: Demonstrations to mark Mashal’s death anniversary were organised by student organisations and members of civil society in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

In Karachi, a large number of students and other people gathered outside the press club to pay their respects to Mashal Khan. They raised slogans for making educational institutions violence-free.

In Lahore, students and other people holding flaming torches marched on roads and gathered outside the press club.

Organised by the Progressive Students Collective comprising several student groups, the event was dubbed as ‘Mashal March’. Members of trade unions and civil society organisations also participated in the march. Speakers said that Mashal had become a symbol of struggle against oppression and brutality.

In Islamabad, a large number of people belonging to different walks of life marched on roads and later gathered outside the National Press Club. The marchers called for the immediate restoration of student unions, elimination of all forms of discrimination in campuses, and secularising the curriculum to counter the spread of hateful ideologies in schools.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019