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Pakistan arrest 22 after student killed for 'blasphemy'

Church officials link murder to the presence of hate and discriminative material in education system

ucanews.com reporters, Peshawar

ucanews.com reporters, Peshawar

Published: April 18, 2017 08:02 AM GMT

Updated: April 18, 2017 08:41 AM GMT

Pakistan arrest 22 after student killed for 'blasphemy'

Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the hostel at Abdul Wali Khan university where students and university employees killed 23-year-old Mashal Khan on April 13. (Photo by Abdul Majeed/AFP)

Police in northwestern Pakistan have rounded up 22 people suspected of inciting or taking part in the killing of a university student who they accused of blasphemy.

Among those arrested, 16 are students and six are employees of Abdul Wali Khan University in the city of Mardan where the lynching took place. 

Those arrested allegedly took part in the April 13 killing of Mashal Khan, a journalism student at the university. Khan was dragged from his hostel room, beaten, stripped, thrown off the second floor and shot to death. His body was also desecrated.

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The Pakistani bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), strongly condemned the killing and demanded that the government take stern action against the perpetrators.

In a statement, commission leaders, Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad, Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of the Pakistani Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace and Cecil Shane Chaudhry, it's executive director, linked the murder with the presence of hate and discriminative material in the country's education system.

Such material should be removed from every school textbook if we want to create a peaceful and tolerant society, they said in their statement.

"The university should develop thinking minds, who can accept and value the opinion of others despite their faith or belief. We need to teach our young students the virtues of tolerance, coexistence and acceptance," the statement said.

"We need to teach our young people the importance of justice and law and order."


A Pakistani policeman inspect a room of a student Mashal Khan, who was killed at a university hostel. Khan, a journalism student, was stripped, beaten, shot, and thrown from the second floor of his hostel, sources at the university said. (Photo by Abdul Majeed/AFP)


A second student was also beaten up by the mob but was rescued by police and taken to hospital.

On the day of his murder, Khan reportedly had a heated debate during a class. The 23-year-old was allegedly known for having secular and liberal views.

The mob attack took place shortly after the university created a committee to investigate Khan's and two other students' "blasphemous activities." The committee banned them from the campus.

Parvez Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told the provincial assembly that no evidence was found to suggest that Khan had committed blasphemy.

Minority Rights Watch, a group representing non-Muslim organizations, held a protest in Lahore to condemn the murder. "We demand the government end the culture of mob violence under the pretext of blasphemy," organization chief Kashif Nawab, told ucanews.com.

Masiha Millat Party, a Christian political party, said Khan's murder was another "chilling reminder of the radicalization of our youth."

"It is high time that the state confronts the ideology which breeds hatred and extremism," said Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra, the party's leader in a statement.


Pakistani civil society members, university students and children hold placards as they take part in an April 15 protest in Islamabad against the killing of Khan. (Photo by Farooq Naeem/AFP)


Christian leaders have long campaigned against the misuse of blasphemy laws that have led to many incidents of mob violence. The law mandates that anyone who "blasphemes" the Quran is to be handed a death sentence.

Church leaders have charged that the laws are abused for personal gain and that religious extremists are furthering their agenda by abusing blasphemy laws.

According to statistics of from the NCJP and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 59 people have been killed extra-judicially since the passing of blasphemy laws in 1988.

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