Mashal Khan never uttered an offensive word against the prophet, according to an investigation ordered by the Supreme Court. The young man’s murder was planned a month before his death to punish him for denouncing corruption. Since 1990, at least 65 people have been killed by religious vigilantes.
Peshawar (AsiaNews) – Mashal Khan, a student who was lynched for blasphemy, never uttered an offensive word towards the prophet, this according to the official joint report by Pakistani police and intelligence agencies.
The Supreme Court had ordered the probe to shed light on one of the most violent episodes in the history of modern Pakistan.
The report notes that the death of Mardan University student was the result of a plot orchestrated by faculty members and student rivals who wanted to punish him for daring to complain about widespread corruption.
Relieved by the conclusions, Mashal's father, Muhammad Iqbal, said that the findings had vindicated his son. "This proves my son was not a blasphemer," he said.
On 13 April (Good Thursday), the 23-year-old student was stripped, beaten, and killed. After he died, a mob desecrated his body with kicks, punches and sticks.
Khan's death has caused an outrage across the country, especially after the video of the lynching was posted online. The images show an unprecedented viciousness, based only on blasphemy allegations.
In reality, “No direct or indirect evidence supporting blasphemy allegations against Mashal Khan (or his friends) Abdullah and Zubair was received," the 308-page report says. The two other men were able to flee.
The killing was instigated by members of Khan's own Pakhtun Students Federation, who felt threatened by his growing prominence as a critic of rising fees and alleged corruption at the university, as well as by the institution's staff.
The police report noted that the attack was planned a month before. It also found that, after the murder, some faculty members pressured students to support the unfounded blasphemy charges. In total, 57 people, including 12 university employees, now face charges.
In Pakistan, blasphemy is punished with the death penalty and the mere suspicion of offending the prophet can trigger the reaction of the most radical Muslims. At least 65 people have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990.
“Unfortunately, blasphemy charges have been used all too frequently to settle even smaller scores, [but] So great is the emotional wave around a blasphemy case that it often results in riots, making an honest inquiry next to impossible,” says an editorial in The Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English language daily newspaper.
The latter goes on to say that “Some of those involved have since reportedly expressed their regret at being overtaken by emotion, but these shows of remorse apart, the real lessons must be learnt by the government. The authorities must see and acknowledge the evidence which says that prompt tackling by officials present of blasphemy accusations can help prevent situations where mobs are found to be violating the law.”