Pakistan sentences man to death in student's lynching

The punishments have finally been handed down to the Pakistani men who slaughtered Humanist activist Mashal Khan previous year.

A 58th man was arrested last month and is facing separate proceedings.

Among the accused were students, teachers and some officials from the Abdul Wali Khan University, which is named after a secular political leader in northwest Pakistan.

"I don't understand how several people were acquitted despite very clear videos and other evidence", he told Urdu.

"Imran Khan had promised he would rename Swabi University after Mashal Khan, but that has yet to happen".

Mashal, a journalism student of the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, was lynched on April 13 past year by a violent mob on allegations of committing blasphemy, however, investigators found no proof of blasphemy and ruled that the murder was politically motivated. He described himself as a humanist, and had plastered his room with posters of his political heroes - like Che Guevara and Karl Marx - and written slogans celebrating free speech on the walls.

He was also known for his criticism of the university's leadership.

He was attacked after a debate on religion at his dormitary, with an investigation ruling that Khan did not engage in blasphemy.

One man received the death sentence.

The report said the murder was premeditated as the group was threatened by his activities, because he would raise his voice against irregularities at his university.

There was a huge outpouring of solidarity and grief. But this is what we've come to expect in nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh, where atheists (or alleged atheists) have been slaughtered for years with the government and law enforcement doing what often seems like the bare minimum in prosecuting the criminals.

Since 1990 vigilantes have been accused of murdering 65 people tied to blasphemy, according to research compiled by the Center for Research and Security Studies.

In 2011, a bodyguard assassinated Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer after he called for the blasphemy laws to be reformed.

Taseer's killer, executed past year, has been hailed as a martyr by religious hardliners.

Rumours spread in April a year ago that he had posted blasphemous material online, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.

  • Joey Payne