Pakistan teacher describes facing mob that lynched student for alleged blasphemy
A teacher at the university where a 22-year-old journalism student was lynched and murdered by a mob for allegedly being blasphemous, describes the moment when the student was killed.world Updated: Apr 18, 2017 23:11 IST
A teacher has described the moment he was accosted by a Pakistani mob which lynched a liberal student accused of blasphemy – an attack which has triggered shock, outrage and fear across the country.
Hundreds of men attacked journalism student Mashal Khan last Thursday, stripping, beating and shooting him before throwing him from the second floor of his hostel at the Abdul Wali Khan university in the northwestern town of Mardan.
Khan had been known for his liberal views, especially on Facebook, sparking the blasphemy allegations against him.
Twenty-two people have been arrested so far over the killing, which came after the government intensified its rhetoric against blasphemy.
Ziaullah Hamdard, one of Mashal Khan’s teachers, told the private Geo TV channel today that he saw students shouting slogans against Khan and another student, Abdullah.
One university employee threatened to kill Khan and cut him into pieces, Hamdard said. Then the mob began kicking in the door to a washroom where Abdullah had taken refuge.
“All this happened in seconds. They broke the door, some of them had batons, they were furious – suddenly they entered inside... they were not listening to anyone,” Hamdard said.
Police arrived and managed to yank a wounded Abdullah to safety, he told Geo. At the sight of blood and the crowd, he added, “I lost my courage.”
Hamdard rushed to the staff hostel, but around 20 students were already there and accused him of hiding Khan.
“They said, ‘You are a non-believer, you have hidden a blasphemer’... They were crazy, they were not listening to me.
“Two of them kicked me and snatched my mobile and locked me in my room.”
Hamdard was rescued by another teacher and spirited away by police. By then Khan, who had been hiding in his own room at a nearby student hostel, was dead.
“Mashal was a Diya (lamp). They have turned off a lamp,” Hamdard told Geo.
He apologised to Khan’s parents for failing to protect their son and said his guilt had driven him to resign.
The brutality of the attack, partly recorded on mobile phone, provoked widespread condemnation, with protests in several cities over the weekend – although it took two days for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to speak out.
Today an opposition leader Imran Khan, whose party controls Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where Mardan is located, vowed the perpetrators would face justice.
The killing came in the wake of a government drive against blasphemy, a hugely sensitive charge in conservative Muslim Pakistan.
Unproven allegations have led to dozens of mob attacks or murders since 1990.
Last month Sharif swore that blasphemers on social media would be prosecuted. The interior ministry also threatened to block social media websites with blasphemous content.
“The state itself has said, there are blasphemers hiding among you, the people; find them! So now the people are finding them,” wrote columnist Cyril Almeida in Dawn newspaper over the weekend in comments critical of the government.
Abdullah, who has been taken into protective custody, claimed the university had wanted him to brand Khan a blasphemer because he (Khan) had criticised the school, according to court documents released late yesterday.
A second student told a magistrate he had testified before a university “congress” on the day of the killing, accusing Khan of blasphemy, according to the documents seen by AFP.
Social media users have become increasingly nervous in the wake of the attack, with posts warning about the dangers of fake accounts that could be used for blasphemy allegations.
Rights activists have long criticised the colonial-era blasphemy legislation, saying it can be abused for personal vendettas.