Mardan (AsiaNews) - A 23-year-old student was lynched by fellow students for allegedly posting blasphemous comments on Facebook.
The murdered student has been identified as Mashal Khan, a student in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The violent images of the beating and barbaric torture inflicted on his lifeless body were quickly uploaded on social media sparking outrage (Please note: this video may offend some viewers).
Catholic leaders, activists, journalists and educators spoke to AsiaNews about the hate-filled atmosphere against liberals and intellectuals who in recent months have become increasingly targeted by Islamic radicals.
The incident took place yesterday when a mob of hundreds of students attacked the young man and a friend after rumours spread that they were promoting the Ahmadi faith on Facebook. Mainstream Muslims consider that latter as heretical.
According to police, no case had been filed against the two. Some reports indicate that they were asked to recite verses of the Qur‘an. When they refused they were attacked. After Mashal Khan was visibly dead, self-styled ‘Protectors of the Qur‘an’ continued to kick and hit his body.
The brutal lynching appears to be the result of "rivalry between opposing groups,” said Rev Jimmy Mathew, Lutheran Bishop of Mardan.
“I spoke with some local young people who told me that clashes had occurred in the past. The blasphemy charge is only to cover up the crime,” he explained.
“The government has ordered an investigation. What is needed is exemplary punishment for this mob violence,” the prelate added. So far, 45 students have been arrested.
“Look at where our society has come to,” said Hamza Arshad, an analyst and journalist. “A mere charge of blasphemy can unleash a fiery volcano that engulfs you, as holy zealots shout slogans. Our society has become a furnace of seething emotions.”
For Arshad, “The way the young man was killed and the traditional indifference of law enforcing agencies was shocking but not surprising because no one tries to save a person once he is charged of blasphemy.” In fact, “No breeze of critical thinking is permissible in this pressure cooker, the mindset we have minted. The only move people are willing to make is towards intolerance."
“We may be fighting the Taliban and other Jihadis but acts of mob justice in blasphemy cases with clubs, iron bars and guns are like holy cows. Here, the state is a passive witness,” he said provocatively.
Caritas Pakistan Lahore operations manager Rojar Randhawa shared the video of mob violence on his social media page. "This shows that we have sown hatred in society and now we are reaping the fruits of this hatred. This is not a new thing here. Religious extremism is at its peak in this part of the world".
Muhammad Jibran Nasir, a renowned human rights activist said in a statement on social media, “Let me say it today in clear terms on how we have created a society where students become murderers. Generals who polluted young minds and weaponised religion for violent means and criminal ends” have “decided to remain quiet and let it happen.”
Politicians like Capt Safdar, Siraj ul Haq, Pir Hasnat Shah, Nasir Chatta, Sunni Tehreek who sing the praises of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed murderer of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Mainstream political parties like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) who patronise terror outfits and form electoral alliances with them giving them space to spread their narrative”.
“We did not lose only Mashal Khan but also hundreds of students who became murderers today,” the activist bemoaned. “We all are responsible.”
“Nothing will happen,” said, embittered, writer Abdul Hameed Gondal. “What kind of generation are we educating in universities? These students do not belong to any extremist outfits like TTP or ISIS. [. . .] The extremist thinking exists in our homes as well.”
Professor Anjum James Paul, chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers Association, agrees. “When students at a higher education institute exhibit so much intolerance, what can we expect at the ground level?”
For Rana Inam, a lawyer and editor in chief of the Mukaalma online newspaper, “it is really sad that a religion, which teaches us to sharpen the knife before slaughtering animals (goat, sheep, and lamb) so that they feel less pain, can at the same time allow that a human be brutally killed in its name. The State should strictly enforce the law against those who use blasphemy for their personal interests.”