Was Mashal Khan guilty


Lynch murder of student activist

Hassan Raza, Infomail 944, May 6, 2017

On April 13, Pakistan saw another case that illustrates the deep-seated social crisis. Hundreds of students at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan lynched a fellow student whom they accused of blasphemy and spreading blasphemous statements on so-called social media. Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student, had sought refuge in the student accommodation, but was dragged out, shot and then brutally tortured to death by the mob persecuting him.

Video recordings in the "social media" showed how he was stoned by the mob even after his murder and how slogans were shouted. As if this was not enough, the video also showed the inaction of the police officers standing around, who did nothing to counter these barbaric acts. Police officers reportedly even participated in the murderous attacks.

Khan wasn't the only victim; two of his friends were attacked and one of them was seriously injured. It has also become clear that the charge of blasphemy, which carries the death penalty under Pakistani law, was completely out of thin air. The police have confirmed reports from Mashal Khan's friends that the university administration incited violence because he helped launch a campaign against corruption, fee increases and other university issues.

Mashal Khan was a Marxist. Police and the media found pictures of Karl Marx, Che Guevara and the nationalist Baloch leader Akbar Khan Bugti, who died under the dictatorship of Musharraf, in his student apartment. On the wall were slogans like "Workers of all countries, unite!"

Videos and reports of the murder showed that the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, a student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Community) led the attack, but leaders of the student organization Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led the attack The leadership of Imran Khan and, more seriously, members of the supposedly secular and progressive Awami National Party (ANP) were implicated in this lynching. A local alliance has been formed, as far as is clear since then, to protect the criminal subjects responsible for the murder of Mashal Khan. As part of this alliance, the ANP shows its true colors.

Imran Khan, whose PTI governs the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, only condemned this murder after 18 hours, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif only two days later. These convictions only came after police reports revealed that there was no truth in the blasphemy allegations and that the university administration was involved in the whole matter.

The lynching reveals the serious social and state crisis. It reveals the character of the era and the level of repression and resentment in Pakistan. General Zia-ul-Haq's military regime had introduced the reactionary blasphemy law into the constitution. After 11 long, dark years of this government, the Nawaz Sharifs introduced additional clauses into the 1992 Criminal Code.

These laws are used today by the state to suppress any criticism of the opposition under the pretext of being guilty of blasphemy. In particular, they are used against media bloggers who criticize the Sino-Pakistani economic corridor, military operations and foreign policy. The state creates a situation in which critical thinking and dissenting views are automatically associated with treason and blasphemy.

In recent months, action by reactionary vigilantes has been encouraged and supported by the government and the judiciary. An Islamabad Supreme Court judge, himself on charges of corruption, is particularly notorious in the field, but his views are shared by the Interior Minister. The situation has worsened because the criminal investigation agency FIA, supported by the judiciary and the interior minister, has called on people to help report blasphemous posts on “social media”. This campaign has now borne its first bitter fruits with the lynching of Mashal Khan and similar incidents elsewhere.

Immediately after the hideous crime, there were demonstrations and gatherings across the country. Although they were not very numerous, they do mean that many people are ready to intervene against such barbarism that threatens to destroy the communal fabric of the country.

The only way to fight this threatening monster is to act together in schools, universities and companies to organize and arm themselves for self-defense against the growing number of such fascist attacks. We call on all progressive organizations, trade unions and social movements to a nationwide conference to work out a common strategy on this issue and to organize a day of action to oppose lynching and the reactionary laws that favor it.

Write a letter to the editor To home page