Haripur ATC set to announce verdict in Mashal Khan lynching case

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Haripur is set to announce its verdict in the Mashal Khan lynching case on Wednesday amid tight security.

ATC Jugde Fazal Khan Subhan is expected to announce a short verdict in the heavily guarded Haripur jail.

Extra security arrangements have been made due to the sensitivity of the case, with roads leading to jail being closed. The jail administration has also banned the entry of visitors.

“It is expected that a large number of relatives, friends, family members and supporters will gather outside the Haripur jail,” a police official told DawnNews, adding that to avoid any untoward incident, police have made foolproof security arrangements.

The family and lawyers of Iqbal Khan, Mashal’s father, are hopeful that they will get justice. “The case is very strong. Police have provided strong evidence, including videos, of the incident,” Fazl Khan, Iqbal’s lawyer told DawnNews.

Iqbal is in London, while Mashal’s mother and sisters are in Swabi and will stay there due to security concerns. Security officials have been deployed outside their residence.

The lynching of Mashal Khan

23-year-old Mashal Khan, a student of Mass Communications at Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University, was beaten and shot to deathby an angry mob on April 13, 2017, after he was accused of blasphemy.

The lynching took place within the premises of the university and was recorded on video which later circulated on social media.

The brutal incident shocked the nation and sparked a debate over the misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

The verdict in the case was reserved on January 27 after the court concluded the hearing of the case.

A total of 61 accused, majority of them students and university employees and a tehsil councillor of PTI, were directly charged in the FIR. Fifty-seven of the accused were arrested within a few days of the occurrence, while another one was arrested only last month.

The prosecution had also presented video clips and pictures of Mashal’s lynching in the ATC as evidence that the [suspects] were involved in his murder.

The court completed the hearing of the case in five months and 10 days.

JIT terms blasphemy allegations against Mashal as baseless

In June 2017, a 13-member joint investigation team — that was formed to investigate the murder — concluded in its report that the allegations of blasphemy against Mashal were unfounded and were used as a pretext to incite a mob against the slain student.

The JIT report had said that Mashal was murdered in line with a plan allegedly hatched by Sabir Mayar, the president of the Pakhtun Students Federation (PSF) and Ajmal, the president of the employees at AWKU, where Mashal was studying Mass Communication.

Mashal had been vocal about the rights of students at the university and even challenged the appointment of a new vice chancellor (VC) at the university to ensure that students were able to obtain their degrees, which is not possible without the VC’s signature, the report had added.

Days before he was lynched by the mob, Mashal in an interview to Khyber news channel, had spoken against activities at the university and the administration.

The investigation revealed that illegal and criminal activities persisted in the university hostel and female students were also exploited in the university.

According to the report, Mayar viewed Mashal’s stance against activities on campus to be a threat to the PSF.

The case regarding his murder was supposed to be heard in an ATC in Mardan, however, the Peshawar High Court (PHC) transferred it to a court in Haripur Jail on the request of Mashal’s father who feared that his “influential adversaries” would try to sabotage the case proceedings.

The court started hearing the case in September last year after indicting 57 arrested suspects.

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