Mashal Khan’s murder has created the space to open up the much needed debate about the misuse of the blasphemy law and the gruesome result of false accusations of blasphemy. While the initial reaction in such cases is usually to remain quiet; a number of offline and online protests throughout the country have pushed the masses to discuss the matter.
One welcome step has been taken by Mashal Khan’s neighbours in Swabi; they have realised that they should be showing solidarity with the family during this ordeal and have apologised for not standing by them earlier.
There are others who need to apologise. In this case, it is those religious parties that failed to give any statement against the brutal killing; the university administration, which started the witch hunt and falsely accused Mashal of committing blasphemy for pointing out the ills on the campus; the Imam at the mosque in Mashal Khan’s home town who refused to lead his funeral prayer; and the hordes of people who use violence in the name of a religion of peace.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government immediately announced a judicial probe and the federal government took up the issue in the National Assembly to make amends to the blasphemy law, only to be blocked by religious parties again, who after initial support in the matter, backed off by accusing liberal, secular forces wanting to amend the law. The current demand to change these laws to discourage false accusations of blasphemy is not liberal or secular – it is very moderate and conservative, and only aims to quell the wave of religious violence.
The police on Friday prevented a charged mob from attacking a man for allegedly committing blasphemy following Friday prayers in Chitral. On Tuesday, three women killed a man in Sialkot, for allegedly committing blasphemy thirteen years ago. The mob must be stopped.