Mashal Khan was a Pashtun student at the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, Pakistan, who was killed by an angry mob on the premises of the University on 13 April 2017, over fake allegations of posting blasphemous content online. Following investigations, the Inspector General of Police later stated “We did not find any concrete evidence under which [a blasphemy] investigation or legal action can be launched against Mashal, Abdullah or Zubair.” Mashal’s friend Abdullah stated to the police in writing that both Mashal and he were devout Muslims, but were actively denouncing mismanagement by the university and had previously led protests against it. Following the death of Khan, at least 45 people were arrested. The suspects will be brought before the Anti-Terrorism Court of Pakistan.
Such is the situation in Pakistan and in many other Muslim countries, that anyone thought to be guilty of blasphemy can be killed. Theoretically under Islam, blasphemy is a capital crime, and in a Muslim State like Pakistan where Sharia law is enforced, execution is the sentence. But, since such cases rarely get to the court and the tendency is not to enforce the death sentence, it has become common for a mob of righteous Muslims to take the law into their own hands. The same happened in Afghanistan in March 2015, Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27-year-old Muslim woman falsely accused of burning a Koran, was beaten to death by a mob in central Kabul as hundreds looked on. This also lead to an international furore.
In the case of Mashal Khan, he was an excellent student who had gone to Russia to take a course and had come back to Pakistan with western ideas. On his wall he had pictures of Lenin and Che Guevara. Apparently he had upset some of his fellow students and the Administration of the University with his out-spoken views. On the day of his death the rumor spread that he had blasphemed against Islam and a mob of his fellow students gathered outside his room. Then they forced their way in and beat him, then dragged him outside the building and in broad daylight in front of hundreds of people they shot him and mutilated his body. Let me repeat there was no actual evidence that he ever posted anything blasphemous. But, even if he did…
There were 20 policemen on duty at the University that day and neither they nor the Administration did anything about it. They did not report the incident to the police as required. After complaints by his parents and friends, and international reporting, the police were forced to take action. They have several videos taken on cell cameras of the incident and they have arrested many students and members of the University Administration. After further political protests, the University was forced to shut down. There is now a serious debate going on in Pakistan over whether the blasphemy law is too broad and needs to be abolished. But, there is strong opposition by the religious elements, many of whom believe that what the mob did to Mashal Khan was righteous justice.