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A “Blasphemy Killing” at a University Shocks Pakistan

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

On April 13 Mashal Khan, 23, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, a town in Northwest Pakistan, was pulled from his dorm room by a crowd of his fellow students. The violence that followed, recorded on a mobile phone, was uncommonly brutal. The attackers shot Khan twice, dragged his corpse through hallways, beat it with planks and stripped him naked. The video shows the mob involved in the lynching shouting religious slogans and congratulating each other over the terrible episode.

Earlier that day, a fellow journalism student had accused Khan of blasphemy. That allegation appears to have triggered the attack.

The penalty for blasphemy under Pakistani law is death, and it is increasingly common that vigilantes take the law into their own hands before courts can get involved. At least 65 people have been murdered by mobs for allegedly insulting Islam since 1990. As often in such cases, there was no evidence against Khan, apart from the claims of the classmate who denounced him, Wajahat, a young man with a fondness for the blood-curdling rhetoric of Islamist televangelists.

Khan’s murder was the first blasphemy killing at a university. Before this, the most horrific blasphemy attack involved villagers who burned a Christian couple in a brick kiln in 2014. That wealthy and literate young men were responsible for Khan’s murder troubles many Pakistanis.

The participation of so many students in Khan’s murder is a sign of growing religious intolerance on campuses. Pakistan’s Islamist parties have been fanning the flames; it took an alarming two days for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to condemn Khan’s murder.

On April 27 police said the person who shot Mashal Khan had been arrested. On April 29th Imran, a fellow student who had fired three shots at Khan, confessed he had shot the boy in the name of Islam. In his confessional statement Imran said that he opened fire at Kham because the deceased was guilty of blasphemy and that he does not regret killing him.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide condemns the brutal killing of Khan in the strongest possible terms and stands in solidarity with the family of the victim.

In recent years, students, professors, and academics have been increasingly targeted in violent attacks–an unacceptable trend that hurts the future of societies at large.


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