ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday accepted for hearing a set of appeals by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government seeking to enhance the sentences of the convicts involved in the 2017 lynching of Mardan university student Mashal Khan.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench, comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, also granted leave to appeal to a number of convicts who have approached the apex court to seek exoneration from the charges and subsequent acquittal.
Additional Advocate General (AAG) for KP Nisar Khan, who represented the provincial government, told Dawn that the appeals were filed against the Nov 2020 verdict in which the Peshawar High Court had commuted the death sentence awarded to primary accused Imran Ali in Mashal Khan lynching case, but maintained the jail terms handed down to 32 others.
Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of Department of Mass Communication at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, was lynched by a mob and shot at over allegations of blasphemy on April 13, 2017.
Several convicts seek acquittal
Mashal Khan’s lynching took place within the premises of his university and was caught on video which was later circulated on social media. The horrific incident shocked the nation and sparked a debate on misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
In June 2017, a 13-member joint investigation team concluded that the allegations of blasphemy against Mashal Khan were unfounded and were used as a pretext to incite a mob against him.
Multiple appeals were filed by the KP government and Mashal Khan’s father seeking reversal of the acquittal of 28 of the accused and an increase in the sentences of 25 of the convicts who were awarded three years’ imprisonment, and those of seven others who were handed down life imprisonment.
Similarly, appeals were filed by convict Imran Ali, who was found guilty of opening fire at Mashal Khan and was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court, seven convicts who were awarded life imprisonment and 25 others who were sentenced to three-year jail term.
During the hearing in the apex court, the AAG argued that digital evidence regarding the lynching of Mashal Khan was available and had been verified by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency; besides, eight confessional statements were also available on record.
Moreover, the prosecution had proved the case beyond any shadow of doubt, the AAG contended, adding that the sentences of the 26 accused, who were awarded three-year jail term, were liable to be enhanced.
On Feb 7, 2018, the ATC convicted 31 of the 57 accused who had initially faced trial in the lynching case, awarding death sentence to prime accused Imran Ali, life imprisonment to five of the convicts, and three-year imprisonment to 25 others.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2022