HARIPUR: The anti-terrorism court (ATC) Wednesday announcing verdict of student of Mardan university journalism department, Mashal Khan lynching case, awarded one accused as capital punishment, twenty five accused were awarded imprisonment for four years and twenty six were released due to lack of proofs.

ATC Judge Fazal-e-Subhan sentenced five accused to 25 years in jail, while 26 others were released. The court had reserved verdict on Mashal Khan lynching case on January 30. The verdict was consisting on  93 pages while four pages of the verdict were also given to media persons.

On this occasion, high-level security arrangements were made inside Haripur jail, with the deployment of 250 police personnel and army troops around the prison and sealing off of routes leading to it.

Mashal, a journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, was killed on April 13, 2017 by a violent mob on the pretext of committing blasphemy. However, investigators found no proof of blasphemy and ruled that the murder was politically motivated.
61 people were nominated in the brutal lynching of the student out of which 58 were arrested including Imran, a suspect who admitted to firing shots at the slain. Three suspects including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Tehseel Councilor Arif, Sabir Mayar, a leader of a student organization and Assad Zia, an employee of the university still remain at large.

The verdict was reserved on January 27 by ATC judge Fazal Subhan.The court held 25 hearings from September 2017 to January 2018 during which 68 witnesses recorded their statements.

At present, a total of 58 accused are in custody whereas three are still absconding. The hearing of the case was initiated in a Mardan court but Mashal’s father, Iqbal Khan, appealed for it to be moved out of his home district citing ‘pressure’ from the accused. Therefore, on July 27, the Peshawar High Court ordered the case be moved to ATC Abbottabad and shifted the accused to Central Jail Haripur.

On September 19, ATC Abbottabad indicted 57 suspects in the case. Another accused was held recently by the Mardan police last month.The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed over the lynching case revealed in its report in June 2017 that members of the Pakhtoon Students Federation, the student wing of the Awami National Party, incited the mob to kill Mashal on the pretext of blasphemy. The report stated the murder was premeditated as the group was threatened by Mashal’s activities because he would raise his voice against irregularities at his university.According to the JIT report, the president of university employees, Ajmal Mayar, revealed during investigation that around a month before the incident, PSF President Sabir Mayar and an employee of the varsity, Asad Katlang, went to him and said they wanted to remove Mashal from their way as he was a threat to their group. The report added that Sabir and Asad did not mention how they wanted to get rid of Mashal, but they are on the run since the day of the killing.Mashal, who was also part of PSF, would openly speak against irregularities in his varsity, the report added.

He had protested over the issue of the university not having a vice chancellor after the previous one retired, as the absence of one would hinder the students from getting their degrees, read the report.

“No one from the AWKUM management visited the camp, due to which Mashal called them thieves.”