Police in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on Monday said there was no concrete evidence yet to register a blasphemy case against Mashal Khan who was lynched by a violent mob, as it arrested 22 people and opened a hate speech probe against two clerics in the case.
"We did not find any concrete evidence under which an investigation or legal action can be launched against Mashal, Abdullah or Zubair," Inspector General of Police Salahuddin Khan Mehsud told reporters at a press conference here.
Mashal, a journalism student at the Khan Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was stripped, beaten and shot in the head and chest by a mob on Thursday.
Dorm Debate Led To Mashal’s Death
The ransacked university hostel room of Mashal Khan has posters of Karl Marx and Che Guevara still hanging on the walls, along with scribbled quotes including one that reads: "Be curious, crazy and mad."
The day before, a heated debate over religion with fellow students broke out at the dorm and led to people accusing Khan of blasphemy against Islam. This attracted a crowd that grew to several hundred people, according to witnesses.
The mob kicked in the door, dragged Khan from his room and beat him to death, witnesses and police said.
The death in the northwestern city of Mardan is the latest violence linked to accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Those who knew Khan described him as an intellectually curious student who openly professed devotion to Islam, but asked many questions.
One of Khan's teachers at Abdul Wali Khan University, who declined to be named for fear of retribution said:
Whatever he had to say, he would say it openly, but he didn’t understand the environment he was living in.
Aziz ur Rehman, a caretaker at the hostel who witnessed Khan's debate with his fellow students, said he brought up arcane subjects such as whether the offspring of Adam and Eve – the original humans in Islamic texts as well as Judeo-Christian ones – would have married each other, raising the issue of incest.
Police say they have arrested 20 suspects involved in Khan's murder and have found no evidence to substantiate blasphemy allegations.
“Law of the Jungle Cannot Prevail”
Reactions started pouring in on social media on the callous treatment meted out to Mashal Khan. Several people were outraged at the inhuman act.
Am in touch with KP IG since last night on condemnable lynching of student in Mardan. Firm action necessary. Law of the jungle can't prevail— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 14, 2017
Should start a fund in Mashal Khan's name for his family and his father. From what I've read, they would have eventually relied on Mashal.— Shaheryar Mirza (@mirza9) April 14, 2017
I wish I could speak to #MashalKhan's parents and tell them their child was someone people like us would have been proud of.— Mahwash Ajaz (@mahwashajaz_) April 13, 2017
Imam Refuses Last Rites
Rehman, the caretaker, said Khan was alive when the police arrived, but that they did not approach the hostel until it was too late. He added:
They could have easily saved his life, but they stood away from the mob... I heard one officer say it’s good that they sent this non-believer to hell.
Mardan police chief Mohammad Alam Shinwari denied the allegation that officers did not do enough to save Khan.
"When we entered the campus, he had already been killed and the mob was trying to burn his body," he said.
In Khan's home town of Swabi, around 60 km south of Mardan, his father, Iqbal Shaer, said the accusations of blasphemy were unfounded. "First they killed my son and now they are adding salt to our wounds," he told Reuters.
Shaer, who runs a small business selling biscuits and chocolates to local retailers, said he had always been a lover of poetry and literature and encouraged his children to express themselves and appreciate the arts.
He added: "My wife told me this morning that she spent her life taking care of her son, but those who killed him have wasted that long struggle."
At Khan’s funeral, the imam at the local mosque refused to read the last rites, according to Swabi resident Salman Ahmed. A technician who was asked to do so in the cleric’s place was confronted by several people afterwards.
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