–PTI councillor Arif Khan and Asad Katling sent to jail for life; court acquits other two over lack of evidence
PESHAWAR: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Thursday announced its verdict in a case pertaining to four suspects in the murder of Mashal Khan on trumped charges of blasphemy, sentencing two to life in prison.
Former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) councillor Arif Khan Mardanwi and Asad Katling were given life imprisonment while Sabir Mayar, and Izharullah were acquitted on the basis of poor evidence.
On April 13, 2017, Mashal Khan, 23, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM), was lynched by a mob allegedly comprising his fellow students riled up by allegations of blasphemy against the young man.
The anti-terrorism court (ATC) on February 7, convicted 31 of the 57 arrested accused in the lynching case, awarding death sentence to the prime accused, life imprisonment to five other convicts and three-year jail terms to 25 others, while acquitting 26 others.
The verdict also declared four absconding accused – Arif, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s tehsil councillor, Asad Khan, Sabir Mayar and Izhar Ullah alias Johny – proclaimed offenders as, according to the verdict, the prosecution has proved the case against them.
After Mashal’s murder, the chief justice took suo moto notice and ordered a judicial inquiry. For this purpose, a joint investigation team was formed to investigate what led to the gruesome murder.
A joint investigation team (JIT) which was formed to probe the lynching of Mashal Khan revealed that it was a well-planned attack by the Pakhtun Students Federation (PSF) and that there was no evidence of blasphemy involved. According to the report, Mashal was getting vocal about student rights and the increasing irregularities in the institution and was becoming an apparent threat to the PSF.
The report also revealed that officials from the university administration were also involved in his murder. The report also stated that there were no solid proofs found about blasphemy committed by Mashal and his friends.
The brutality of the attack, recorded on a mobile phone camera, had shocked the public and led to widespread condemnation, including from prominent clerics.