Published on 25 November 2020 in Blasphemy news

Pakistan: developments in the quest for justice for Mashal Khan

On 19 November 2020, the Peshawar High Court reportedly commuted the death sentence handed down to one of the individuals convicted of the lynching of university student Mashal Khan – the only one to be sentenced to death. The court dismissed all other appeals, maintaining the life sentences and jail terms awarded to the 32 other convicts. 

25 of those who had been convicted for their role in Khan’s death in 2017 were subsequently released on bail. However, the judges presiding over the Peshawar High Court hearing declared their void and ordered their re-arrest so that they may serve out a minimum term of three years in prison.

On 13 April 2017, Mashal Khan, a journalism student at Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan  University, was beaten to death by a mob of fellow students after he was accused of blasphemy. Police were reportedly present during the attack but claimed they were unable to intervene due to the large number of attackers present. 

Khan had called himself “The Humanist” on his Facebook page and regularly posted against discrimination and in favour of human dignity; he had also been an advocate for the rights of students and exposing corruption on campus. Media reports indicate that a group used a false accusation of “blasphemy” in order to incite students to attack Khan. The official police report states that there is no basis for the allegations of blasphemy levied against Khan. 57 suspects initially went on trial in 2017. Since his killing, the court has convicted 33 people, sentenced one individual to death, seven to life imprisonment, while acquitting 26 individuals.