The anti-terrorism court (ATC) hearing the murder case of university student Mashal Khan announced its verdict, awarding the death sentence to one accused and handing life sentences to five others.
Twenty-five accused in the case were awarded sentences of four years each, while 26 suspects were acquitted by the court for lack of evidence.
On April 13, 2017, 23-year-old Mashal Khan was lynched and murdered by an angry mob at the Abdul Wali Khan University on the pretext of committing blasphemy. However, investigators found no proof of blasphemy and ruled that the murder was politically motivated.
According to the verdict read out by ATC Judge Fazal-e-Subhan, the primary accused in the case, Imran was sentenced to death under Section 302(b) of the Pakistan Penal Code. He was also sentenced under Section 7(1) ATA, 1997 to death and a fine of Rs100,000 or in case of default to undergo simple imprisonment for six months. The ATC further sentenced him to five years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs50,000 and in case of default, to undergo six months simple imprisonment.
Imran had earlier, in front of a judicial magistrate, admitted to shooting Mashal Khan.
The ATC awarded life sentences amounting to 25 years in jail to Fazal-e-Raziq, Mujeebullah, Ishfaq Khan, Bilal Baksh and Mudassir Bashir.
The twenty-five accused sentenced to four years, will serve their sentence concurrently. They have been sentenced under Section 11-WW ATA,1997 to three years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs50,000 or in case of default, further six months imprisonment.
Media has learnt that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will file appeals in the high court against the acquittal of suspects.
A total of 57 accused were indicted in the case while another, Mian Saeed, was arrested on January 4. Three more suspects, including a tehsil councillor from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), are still absconding.
Ahead of Wednesday’s verdict, heavy security was deployed at the jail where the accused were detained, with the area cordoned off by around 300 regular police and elite commandos.
Initially, the case was scheduled to be heard at the ATC in Mardan, however, on the request of Mashal’s father, it was transferred to the Abbottabad ATC which heard the case in Haripur Jail for fear of a law and order situation.
‘Will file appeal’
The family of Mashal Khan has announced that they will file an appeal against the ATC decision to acquit 26 suspects. Speaking to reporters, Mashal’s mother confirmed that an appeal would be filed in the high court.
Mashal’s mother said no one in Pakistan had been killed as mercilessly as her son. “Those released also intended to kill and should have been sentenced,” Mashal’s mother said during a news conference.
She called for all involved in the case to be punished and elements behind the incident to be revealed. Mashal’s mother added that the high court would be approached against the decision.
In an earlier conversation with media, Mashal’s mother said that she could not trust any university to send her children to for education. “My daughters are toppers, but their education has been disrupted.”
She stated that the KP government has not completed the promises made to her family.
Aimal Khan, the brother of late Mashal, demanded the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police to urgently arrest the absconders.
“I am sad to lose my brother. The void can never be filled,” Aimal said, adding that, “Imran Khan promised to name Swabi University after Mashal Khan, he is yet to complete his promise.”
Meanwhile, PTI chairman Imran Khan tweeted that both the Asma and Mashal cases showed how a professional, model police force goes about its work and delivers solid results.
Why was he killed?
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed over the lynching case revealed in its report in June 2017 that members of the Pakhtoon Students Federation, the student wing of the Awami National Party, incited the mob to kill Mashal on the pretext of blasphemy. The report stated the murder was premeditated as the group was threatened by Mashal’s activities because he would raise his voice against irregularities at his university.
According to the JIT report, the president of university employees, Ajmal Mayar, revealed during investigation that around a month before the incident, PSF President Sabir Mayar and an employee of the varsity, Asad Katlang, went to him and said they wanted to remove Mashal from their way as he was a threat to their group. The report added that Sabir and Asad did not mention how they wanted to get rid of Mashal, but they are on the run since the day of the killing.
Mashal, who was also part of PSF, would openly speak against irregularities in his varsity, the report added.
He had protested over the issue of the university not having a vice chancellor after the previous one retired, as the absence of one would hinder the students from getting their degrees, read the report.
“No one from the AWKUM management visited the camp, due to which Mashal called them thieves.”
PTI govt didn’t fulfil promises: Mashal’s father
On January 22 this year, Mashal’s father said that he himself was bearing the expenses of the police security for his family and that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not fulfilled a single promise made to him after the lynching of his son.