Pakistani court gives life sentence to two over Mashal lynching case

The killing of student Mashal Khan, 23, had sparked a national outcry and raised fresh questions about the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which stipulates the death sentence for insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad and is often used to settle personal vendettas. (AFP/File)
Updated 22 March 2019
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Pakistani court gives life sentence to two over Mashal lynching case

  • 2017 murder sparked a national outcry and raised fresh questions about the misuse of blasphemy law
  • Father says verdict will “heal my family’s wounds”

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani court on Thursday awarded life sentences to two people over the campus lynching of a university student who was falsely accused of blasphemy in 2017.

The killing of student Mashal Khan, 23, had sparked a national outcry and raised fresh questions about the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which stipulates the death sentence for insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad and is often used to settle personal vendettas.

At least 67 people have been killed in Pakistan over unproven blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to human rights groups. In 2011, a bodyguard assassinated Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer after the governor called for reforming the blasphemy laws.

On Thursday, an anti-terrorism court gave Arif Khan, a local leader from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party, and varsity employee Asad Khan Katlang, four counts each of life imprisonment over Mashal Khan’s killing. Two other suspects were acquitted by the court.

“At last justice was accepted and ruled the day,” Iqbal Khan, the father of the victim, told Arab News. “This decision will heal my family’s wounds.”
The written judgment in the case said witness statements and supporting videos, photos and crime scene recoveries had made it “crystal clear” that Arif Khan had provoked and instigated a mob of students against Khan, leading to his lynching.

“The prosecution has been successful to bring home the charges levelled against him [Arif Khan] beyond a shadow of any reasonable doubt,” the judgment said.

In June 2017, a 13-member joint investigation team had concluded that the allegations of blasphemy against Khan were unfounded and were used as a pretext to incite a mob against him. The JIT also revealed that Khan had been vocal about the rights of students at the university and challenged the appointment of a new vice chancellor. Just days before he was lynched, Khan had spoken against the university administration in a TV interview.

Last year, a Pakistani court convicted 31 people over Khan’s campus lynching. A total of 61 suspects were arrested after the murder. The prime accused, Imran Ali, who confessed before a judicial magistrate that he had shot Khan, was sentenced to two counts to death by hanging. Another 25 suspects were awarded four-year sentences each but were later released on bail.


Pakistani politicians, analysts appreciate Saudi Crown Prince’s stance on regional peace

Updated 17 June 2019
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Pakistani politicians, analysts appreciate Saudi Crown Prince’s stance on regional peace

  • The Crown Prince’s recent statement reflects his wisdom and restraint, says Senator Sehar Kamran
  • International community must act to defuse situation in the Middle East, maintains senior analyst Zahid Hussain

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s major political parties and analysts on Monday appreciated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s statement that the Kingdom did not want a war in the Middle East.
In an interview last week, the Crown Prince also called for a decisive international position against Iran.
“At this very critical moment, the demonstration of restraint by the Saudi Crown Prince is very much appreciated. This shows his wisdom and rationale,” Senator Sehar Kamran of the Pakistan Peoples Party told Arab News, adding: “I believe the entire world will applaud the statement. We must give peace a chance and support efforts for political solution to all outstanding issues.”
“The international community can play an important role in reminding Iran of the consequences [of war] and help initiate a dialogues process to prevent further escalation of tensions in the region,” she continued.
Kamran said the recent attack on a Saudi oil tanker was a serious issue and must be strongly condemned.
“Every nation has the right to protect its sovereignty and national assets,” she noted. “Iran must act as a responsible state. A transparent investigation of the attack by the United Nations and collective wisdom on the issue will be the best option.”
Echoing her sentiment, Romina Khurshid Alam of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party also welcomed the Crown Prince’s statement.

“Our party leadership has always advocated for peace in the region and supports Pakistan’s role as a mediator to resolve all outstanding issues,” she said.
Omar Sarfraz Cheema, the central information secretary of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, told Arab News that “the PTI strongly condemns attacks on Saudi facilities by Houthis.”
He recalled that the Pakistani leadership had expressed its desire to play a mediator’s role for peace and stability in the Middle East.
Last week, Cheema told Arab News that Prime Minister Imran Khan had already urged the Houthis to engage in “meaningful dialogue” with Saudi Arabia to resolve the conflict. “This is a divisive issue for the whole Muslim world and should be resolved through negotiations,” he added.
“Peace is essential for the development of countries in the Middle East,” former Pakistani ambassador Rizwan-ul-Haq told Arab News. “Any country which upsets the tranquility and peace of the region must be invited to explain its position to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and asked to change its stance in a unanimous and decisive way.”
“We should sit together with transgressors and find a diplomatic solution before resorting to extreme measures,” he added.
Veteran Pakistani political commentator Zahid Hussain said that “the attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf and oil facilities in the Kingdom have created a serious security situation in the Middle East and there is an urgent need for the international community to act and defuse the situation.”
“The Crown Prince is right that war is not an option,” he added.