A “blasphemy killing” at a university shocks Pakistan

April 30, 2017

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 fellow students. The violence that followed, recorded on a mobile phone, was uncommonly brutal. The video shows the mob involved in the lynching shouting religious slogans and congratulating each other over the brutal episode. The attackers shot Mr. Khan twice, dragged his corpse through hallways, beat it with planks and stripped him naked.



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


The penalty for blasphemy under Pakistani law is death. But it is increasingly common that vigilantes take the law into their own hands before courts 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 Mr. 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.


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


The participation of so many students in Mr. Khan’s murder is a sign of growing religious intolerance on campuses. Pakistan’s Islamist parties have been fanning the flames of it: Alarmingly, it took two days for the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to condemn Mr. Khan’s murder.


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


Endangered Scholars Worldwide condemns the brutal killing of Mashal Khan at the hands of an enraged mob on unfounded allegations of blasphemy 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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