HARIPUR: The anti-terrorism court (ATC) hearing the Mashal Khan murder case announced its decision against the 57 accused on Wednesday, sentencing to death the primary suspect Imran who was the shooter.

According to the judgment, ATC Judge Fazal-e-Subhan also sentenced five accused to life imprisonment (25 years) and 25 others to four years each. Moreover, the ATC acquitted the remaining 26 suspects for want of evidence.

The 25 accused sentenced to four years, will serve their sentence concurrently. They have been sentenced under Section 11-WW ATA,1997 to three years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs50,000 or in case of default, further six months imprisonment.

They have also been sentenced under Section 297/148/149 PPC to one-year rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs50,000 each or in case of default, to further go another six months of imprisonment.

Geo News has learnt that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will file appeals in the high court against the acquittal of suspects.

Mashal, a journalism student at the Abdul Wali Khan University, was killed on April 13, 2017, by a violent mob on the pretext of committing blasphemy. However, investigators found no proof of blasphemy and ruled that the murder was politically motivated.

A total of 57 accused were indicted in the case while another, Mian Saeed, was arrested on January 4. Three more suspects, including a tehsil councillor from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, are still absconding.

Initially, the case was scheduled to be heard at the ATC in Mardan, however, on the request of Mashal’s father, it was transferred to the Abbottabad ATC which heard the case in Haripur Jail for fear of a law and order situation.

Family demands arrest of absconders

After the verdict, Aimal Khan, the brother of late Mashal, demanded the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police to urgently arrest the absconders.

Speaking to the press, Aimal said that the family will decide about the future course of action on the case after consulting their legal counsels. “I am sad to lose my brother. The void can never be filled,” Aimal said, adding that, “Imran Khan promised to name Swabi University after Mashal Khan, he is yet to complete his promise.”

While speaking to Geo News, Mashal’s mother said her son was killed on a false allegation. “Strict punishment should be given to people who are seen [attacking Mashal] in the footage,” she said, adding that “after the incident, my children have quit their education [for fear of their life].”

Mashal’s mother said that she can’t trust any university to send her children to for education. “My daughters are toppers, but their education has been disrupted.”

She stated that the KP government has not completed the promises committed to her family.

Meanwhile, PTI chairman Imran Khan tweeted that both the Asma and Mashal cases showed how a professional, model police force goes about its work and delivers solid results.

Why was he killed?

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed over the lynching case revealed in its report in June 2017 that members of the Pakhtoon Students Federation, the student wing of the Awami National Party, incited the mob to kill Mashal on the pretext of blasphemy. The report stated the murder was premeditated as the group was threatened by Mashal’s activities because he would raise his voice against irregularities at his university.

According to the JIT report, the president of university employees, Ajmal Mayar, revealed during investigation that around a month before the incident, PSF President Sabir Mayar and an employee of the varsity, Asad Katlang, went to him and said they wanted to remove Mashal from their way as he was a threat to their group. The report added that Sabir and Asad did not mention how they wanted to get rid of Mashal, but they are on the run since the day of the killing.

Mashal, who was also part of PSF, would openly speak against irregularities in his varsity, the report added.

He had protested over the issue of the university not having a vice chancellor after the previous one retired, as the absence of one would hinder the students from getting their degrees, read the report.

“No one from the AWKUM management visited the camp, due to which Mashal called them thieves.”

PTI govt didn’t fulfil promises: Mashal’s father

On January 22 this year, Mashal’s father said that he himself was bearing the expenses of the police security for his family and that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not fulfilled a single promise made to him after the lynching of his son.

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