HARIPUR: The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Wednesday awarded death sentence on two counts to one person, life term to five and four years sentence to 25 accused in the Mashal Khan lynching case.
However, the court acquitted 26 among the accused as the prosecution was not able to prove their involvement in any act of violence or aggression on the body of the slain student. The Anti-Terrorism Court Judge, Abbottabad, Fazal Subhan, announced the decision amid tight security in the camp court at the sprawling Central Prison, Haripur.
Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of Journalism and Mass Communication Department at the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, was lynched by a mob that included students, university employees and outsiders at the campus on April 13 last year on the suspicion that he had committed blasphemy.
The court sentenced 31 of the accused in the Mashal murder case. As per the judgment made available to The News, the court awarded death sentence to accused Imran, son of Sultan Muhammad, on two counts. The first death sentence was awarded under Section 302(b) PPC with fine, while the second death sentence was given to him under Section 7(1)(a) Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997. The court also fined him Rs100,000 and in default he would undergo further six months simple imprisonment.
The court announced two times life imprisonment (50 years) to three accused including Fazle Raziq, son of Fazle Khaliq, Mujeebullah, son of Said Rehman, and Ashfaq Khan, son of Khan Bahadar. They were awarded one time life sentence under sections 302(b), 148 and 149 PPC with fine of Rs50,000 and second time life imprisonment under Section 7(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act with fine of Rs100,000.
The ATC judge also awarded three times life imprisonment (75 years) to two accused including Mudassir Bashir, son of Muhammad Bashir, and Bilal Bakhsh, son of Nabi Bakhsh.
The court awarded first life term under Section 302(b) PPC, second life term under Section 7(a) Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) with fine of Rs50,000 and the third time life term under Section 120(b) (punishment under criminal conspiracy) with fine of Rs50,000.
The court awarded four years sentence to 25 accused including Wajid Malang, Zeeshan, Hanif, Nasrullah alias Nasir Afridi, Imad Ahmad, Khial Said, Hassan Akhtar, Anas, Malik Tauqeer, Aamir, Sodais, Hamza, Arif, Shahab Ali Shah, Ashraf Ali, Imran, Waleed, Ali Khan, Shoaib, Nawab Ali, Syed Abbas, Sahib Zada, Muhammad Sohaib, Farhan Laiq, Riaz Shangla and Wajahatullah.
They were awarded one year sentence under Section 297 read with sections 148 and 149 PPC with fine of Rs50,000 and three years sentence under Section 11-WW ATA and fine of Rs50,000.
The court also declared that all the convictions against the accused shall run concurrently. The court also gave benefit of Section 382-B CrPC as the jail term before conviction would be counted in the sentence.
The court acquitted 26 of the accused in the case with observation that the prosecution has not been able to prove their involvement in any act of violence or aggression on the body of Mashal Khan.
Those who were acquitted included Ghayoor Alam, Samiullah, Shahzad, Sajjad Ali, Irfanullah, Anas, Shabbir Ahmad, Sajjad Katlang, Sohrab, Usman, Asif, Suleman, Jalal, Ajmal Mayar, Ali Hussain, Basharat, Ashfaqur Rehman, Azaz, Abbas Sheno, Hamad, Syed Wajid Ali, Saeed Shankar, Afsar Khan, Hazrat Bilal, Muhammad Shafi and Shahzad.
About the acquitted persons, the court observed that no conclusive evidence was brought on record against them and at the same time they were not found to have played any overt act in the lynching of Mashal Khan. The court stated that though these persons were identified in the videos and report, they could only be seen standing in the mob or making videos and were therefore acquitted of all the charges.
The court declared absconding accused Arif Khan, son of Tor Khan, resident of Mardan, Asad Khan, son of Gulroz, resident of Matta village in Katlang tehsil in Mardan, Sabir Mayar, son of Mustaghfirullah, resident of Mayar village in Mardan and Izharullah alias Johny of Mardan as proclaimed offenders. It ordered that they be brought to trial after their arrest.
Arif Khan was a tehsil councillor belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and has reportedly fled abroad. He wasn't a student and had come from outside to take part in Mashal's lynching and then bragged about it in a video. Some of those sentenced were affiliated to different students' wings of political parties, including the Pakhtun Students Federation and Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba.
After the decision, Barrister Ameerullah Khan Chamkani and Muhammad Ayaz Khan, counsels for the complainant Muhammad Iqbal, the father of Mashal, who is currently in London, told The News that he had given power of attorney to them for filing of appeals against the decision. The lawyers said that they were going to file two sets of appeals against the decision in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) within three or four days, including appeal against acquitted persons and for enhancement of sentence awarded to the accused. They said that they would seek enhancement of sentence from life to death and from four years to life.
On the other hand, Abdul Hameed Khan, senior prosecutor who argued the Mashal case in the court from the prosecution side, told The News the provincial government was going to consult the decision with prosecutors and would decide about filing an appeal against it.
"A committee of prosecutors under the head of director prosecution would decide in one or two days about challenging the decision in the high court," he said. He said the prosecutors' grievances if any about the decision would be considered in the appeal against acquittal of the accused.
In the trial, Barrister Ameerullah Khan Chamkani and a team of private counsels including Muhammad Ayaz, Fazal Khan, Shahabuddin Khattak, Sardar Abdur Rauf and Mumtaz Khan appeared for Mashal Khan's father Muhammad Iqbal.
The defence lawyers in the case included Fazle Haq Abbasi, Javed Tanoli, Masood Azhar, Atif Jadoon, Malik Amjad and Ashfaq Haider.
Mashal Khan's mother and sister were quoted as saying that they were dissatisfied with the court verdict. However, they felt relieved that the trial had been concluded.
Our correspondent adds from Islamabad: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan heaped praise on his party-led KP government and the provincial police with regards to the probe into Mashal Khan case and effective prosecution in the court.
“In Mashal case, apart from the thoroughly professional job done by KP police, I would also like to commend the prosecution team's untiring efforts in giving valuable inputs at the investigation stage and of effective prosecution in the court. A collective professional effort,” he said in a volley of tweets.
Both the Asma and Mashal cases, he noted, have shown how a professional, model police force goes about its work efficiently and delivers solid results.
Imran wrote, “Commendable work by the professional KP police force. In the Asma case, with just one spot of blood found & no other evidence, no CCTV footage, KP police worked professionally to catch culprit showing they have developed advanced forensic detection capability as well.”