Mardan police on Thursday arrested another suspect in the April 2017 murder of Mashal Khan, bringing the total number of arrests tied to the horrific lynching of the Mardan university student to 58.
District Police Officer (DPO) Dr Mian Saeed said Izharullah, alias John, a proclaimed offender in the case, was arrested in the jurisdiction of the Saddar police station during a raid.
A Kalashnikov, a Kalakove gun and a pistol were recovered from Izharullah’s possession, the DPO said. Another three proclaimed offenders in the case, including the main accused, are still at large.
Mashal, a 23-year-old student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, was killed by a vigilante mob for allegedly publishing blasphemous content online.
A joint investigation team (JIT) formulated to probe the lynching found no proof that Khan had committed blasphemy.
‘Premeditated plot against Mashal’
The JIT report had said that Khan was murdered in line with a plan allegedly hatched by Sabir Mayar, the president of the Pakhtun Student’s Federation (PSF) and Ajmal, the president of the employees at the Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU), where Khan was studying Mass Communication.
Khan had been vocal about the rights of students at the university and even challenged the appointment of a new vice chancellor (VC) at the university to ensure that students were able to obtain their degrees, which is not possible without the VC’s signature, the report had added.
Days before he was lynched by the mob, Khan in an interview to Khyber news channel had spoken against activities at the university and the administration.
The investigation revealed that illegal and criminal activities persisted in the university hostel and female students were also exploited in the university.
According to the report, Mayar viewed Khan’s stance against activities on campus to be a threat to the PSF.
‘Student asked to testify against Mashal’
A student arrested in the lynching case had claimed that the administration of Abdul Wali Khan University had asked him to testify against the deceased.
The accused, Wajahat, had admitted that he was part of the mob which lynched the 23-year-old Mardan university student.
His statement had come hours after Abdullah, a student who survived despite being beaten violently, had said he was asked to testify that Mashal had committed blasphemy — a request which he had refused.
Wajahat had also claimed in his statement that on April 13, he was called to the chairman’s office by class representative Mudassir Bashir, who had asked him to testify against Mashal before the university administration.
Students pledge to conceal identity of Mashal’s shooter
A video circulating, recorded minutes after the horrific lynching, had showed a man demanding that a group of students take an oath to conceal the identity of the man who shot 23-year-old Mashal Khan.
The video showed the mob involved in the lynching shouting religious slogans and congratulating each other over the brutal episode.
In the video, a man who appeared to be the ringleader, Arif, was heard proclaiming that anyone who named the shooter would be considered “a blasphemer”. The declaration appeared to be a veiled threat to silence those who may testify against the murder and protect the main culprits.
According to university students, Arif does not attend Abdul Wali Khan University, but was allowed on the premises on several occasions. Local media reports said he was the general secretary of the Insaf Student Federation, which is the student wing of the ruling party in KP, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).