SWABI: The parents of the students arrested in connection with Mashal Khan’s lynching as well as social activists and leaders of the Awami National Party (ANP) have expressed their reservations over the report presented to the Supreme Court by the joint investigation team (JIT) probing into the case.
They claim that the coalition government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) used its offices and police “to save their blue-eyed boys” in the probe into the murder of 23-year-old Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) Mardan student Mashal, who was beaten up by a mob of students and then shot dead on the campus on April 13 over accusations of committing blasphemy.
“In my opinion, the JIT has only focused on the actors and didn’t identify or investigate those who planned and ordered this heinous crime,” ANP Central Vice President Bushra Gohar told The Express Tribune on the phone on Sunday.
Gohar said the JIT had not investigated key suspects including the AWKU journalism department chairman, district administration officials and the Mardan DSP who were “clearly seen planning and executing” the attack and instigating the mob.
“The investigation clearly failed to take into account who was allowed [by the district administration] to hold a rally in support of the killers and who wasn’t allowed to hold a peaceful demonstration by social activists the day after the murder,” she maintained.
The ANP leader further said students, AWKU employees and members of different political parties were involved in the attack on Mashal but the JIT willfully concealed the political affiliation of the main culprits who were associated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) – both ruling parties in K-P.
“The JIT also failed to investigate why and how a sitting MPA helped one of the main suspects, Arif Khan, a PTI councillor, to escape,” she said. “It [the JIT] targeted the Pakhtun Students Federation (ANP’s student wing) in its report which shows that it was under immense pressure from the provincial government.”
The ANP leader said the objective of the JIT report was to malign her party rather than submit an unbiased investigative report to bring the killers to justice. “This report has also exposed the PTI- and JI-led government, which has made tall claims of institutional reforms,” she added.
The parents of students arrested in the case have also accused the Mardan police and the JIT members of being influenced by the provincial government and the police of arresting “innocent students” while the actual conspirators remain at large.
Dr Sahibzada, whose son is among the students detained, said the Mardan police were intentionally using delaying tactics. “More than two months have passed since the arrests were made but the police have still not produced the arrested in court and hasn’t kicked off the case’s proceedings,” he claimed.
“We demand that the high court and Supreme Court should take notice of police negligence in the JIT report – for not producing the suspects in the Mashal Khan lynching case and to keep them in habeas corpus,” Dr Sahibzada said, referring to the legal recourse under which a detained person is required to be presented in court.
Similarly, Peshawar-based high court lawyer and social activist Tariq Afghan also has reservations over the JIT report.
“Because of the K-P government’s pressure, the JIT report did not even dare mention the names of Arif Khan, the PTI councillor, and Imran Ali, who shot Mashal,” he said. In a video that surfaced after Mashal’s death, Arif Khan is seen urging the crowd not to reveal the shooter’s name.
Afghan further said that the JIT report also did not mention the role of DSP Haider Khan who allegedly gathered the students on campus, and also fails to find out how Arif Mardan managed to get out of jail and go into hiding after Mardan police had initially arrested him.
The JIT report which was released last week revealed that the blasphemy allegations against Mashal were baseless and that some university employees and student leaders had conspired to harm Mashal, who was a vocal critic of the administration.
According to the report, Ajmal Mayar – the president of the AWKU employees’ union – told the JIT that a month before the murder, Sabir Mayar, the head of the Pakhtun Students Federation, and Asad Katlang, an AWKU employee, had come to his office and told him that they “have to get rid of Mashal [as] he is a threat to the party.”
However, the report says it is unclear what tactics Sabir and Katlang employed to “get rid of Mashal”. Both the accused are among the people who are absconding since the incident.
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