HARIPUR: An anti-terrorism court on Wednesday sentenced a convict to death while five others to 25 years’ imprisonment in the Mashal Khan lynching case.
ATC Judge Fazal-i-Subhan Khan acquitted 26 suspects and awarded four years of jail term to 25 other accused in the case.
Convict Imran, who has been awarded capital punishment, was found guilty of firing shots at the victim student from his pistol, which led to his death. He had also confessed to the crime before the court.
The court had reserved the verdict on January 30 after prosecution and defence sides concluded their arguments in the case. Nearly 50 prosecution witnesses testified against the suspects during the course of the hearing conducted inside Haripur Central Jail.
The prosecution charged 61 people in the case, while 57 of them were arrested and produced before the court for trial. Still four accused of the incident said to be at large.
Moreover, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has decided to challenge acquittal of 26 accused in Mashal murder case. Provincial Minister Shaukat Yousufzai has said that the government wants punishment to all the accused involved in the grisly incident.
Mashal, 23, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) in Mardan, was beaten and shot to death on April 13 by an unruly mob instigated by rumours that he had committed blasphemy by posting sacrilegious content online.
The incident sparked widespread outrage in the country, triggering a debate over misuse of the blasphemy laws. On Sept 19, the court had indicted 56 suspects on murder and terrorism-related charges. Security has been beefed up outside the prison and surrounding areas to avoid any untoward incident. Roads leading to it have also been blocked keeping in view the sensitivity of the matter.
A Joint Investigation Team (JIT), formed to probe Mashal Khan’s lynching incident at AWKU in its report made startling revelations that the cold-blooded murder of 23-year-old journalism student was carried out under a well-planned conspiracy while ruling out the victim’s involvement in publishing blasphemous content in June.
Pakhtun Student Federation’s president and an employee of the Abdul Wali Khan University had plotted to eliminate Mashal Khan for his activism at AWKU a month before the lynching incident as his active participation and ideas were becoming a threat for the student federation to sustain its position, revealed the JIT report.
According to probe report, nothing was found to substantiate the blasphemy charges against the slain student and his two other companions. “A group of people instigated the mob against him by accusing him of committing blasphemy”, the JIT report further revealed.
It said the lynching victim was outspoken about irregularities committed by the university administration, more particularly the appointments of incompetent and unqualified persons on political basis, adding that the culture of drugs and weapons was a norm at the university.
The JIT unveiled that various employees of the varsity have criminal record, thus they should be subjected to an investigation. It added that out of 57 culprits, 54 had been behind bars while the rest are still on the run. NNI