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8 charged over Pakistani liberal student’s murder

Pakistan army foils major terrorist attack

SWABI: Villagers carry a body of a student Mohammad Mashal for burial in Swabi, Pakistan. Police said that a group of students at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan attacked and killed Mashal, accusing him of sharing blasphemous content on Facebook. — AP

PESHAWAR: Eight Pakistanis who brutally murdered a fellow university student over his liberal views were charged with murder and terrorism yesterday, court officials said. Mashal Khan, a journalism student, was stripped, beaten, shot, and thrown from the second floor of his hostel at the Abdul Wali Khan university in the conservative northwestern town of Mardan on Thursday by a large mob. So far a total of 12 people have been arrested over the incident and police are hunting for more suspects.

“Eight students were presented before an anti-terrorism court in Mardan over murder and challenging the writ of the state,” public prosecutor Rafiullah Khan said. Four others were arrested Saturday, Khan said. Graphic video footage from the crime scene showed dozens of men outside the hostel kicking and hurling projectiles at a body sprawled on the ground.
Mushtaq Ghani, Information Minister of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said the government had also requested Peshawar High Court to conduct a judicial probe into the incident.  Students had previously complained to university authorities about Khan’s alleged secular and liberal views and Khan had been in a heated debate during a class the day he was killed. Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive charge in conservative Muslim Pakistan, and can carry the death penalty. Even unproven allegations can cause mob lynchings and violence.

At least 65 people have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged that all those involved in the lynching be brought to justice. “The state’s abject failure to protect Mashal Khan’s right to life has created great panic and horror among students and academia. Unless all those who played any part in Mashal’s brutal murder are brought to justice, such barbarity will only spread,” it said. At his funeral on Friday, Khan’s father said he hoped his son’s murder would “evoke realization among people that killing an innocent is a sin”.

Easter terror attack
In another development, Pakistan’s military says security forces foiled a “major terrorist attack” on minority Christians when they killed a militant and detained his associate in the eastern city of Lahore. In a statement, the military said Saturday four soldiers were wounded in an overnight raid. It was unclear which militant group wanted to target Easter Sunday in Lahore, where more than 70 people were killed in a 2016 suicide bombing at a park, which was crowded with Christians and Muslims at the time. The latest raid came hours after Christians celebrated Good Friday by worshipping at city churches. Security forces in recent months have stepped up operations against militants but Friday’s raid and shootout came as Christians prepared to celebrate the day followers believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead.- Agencies

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