Friday, April 13, 2018


#MashalKhan1stAnniversary - Family remembers Mashal Khan on 24th birthday

The family of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan who was lynched by an angry mob in the university’s premises over false allegations of posting blasphemous content online, celebrated his birthday on Tuesday.
On February 7, an anti-terrorism court in Haripur announced its verdict in the lynching case, handing one person death sentence, five life imprisonments, 25 others to three years in jail, and acquitting 26 others.
Brother of Mashal Khan, Aman Aimal Mashal, posted a video on Facebook in which Mashal’s father Iqbal Khan and mother Syeda Bibi could be seen cutting a cake. The pictures of Mashal’s grave lighted with candles were also posted on the social media.

Aman wrote: “We are not celebrating but ensuring that we still feel you are among us. You are alive for us. We all love you very much.”
Khan completed his college in the Institute of Computer and Management Sciences on a scholarship and received good marks.
He then received a scholarship to study at a university in Russia where he studied engineering for one year. He then returned to Pakistan without completing his studies due to the family’s limited financial resources. Upon returning to Pakistan, he enrolled in the department of journalism at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan where he was planning to do a Master’s in Mass Media and Journalism while preparing for his civil services exams.
His father told a media outlet that “Mashal was devoted to his studies and would study for 15 hours a day. He believed education was essential for a full life and encouraged his brothers and sister to study as well. His father added that Mashal was a “peaceful, tolerant person” and that he wrote poetry in Pashto. Khan had one brother and two sisters and was 23 years old at the time of his murder.
Mashal’s teacher told a local media outlet that “Mashal was a humanist, he was into socialism and Sufism”. A teacher described Khan as an engaged and thoughtful student. “He was brilliant and inquisitive, always complaining about the political system of the country, but I never heard him saying anything controversial against the religion.”

#MashalKhan1stAnniversary - Revisiting Mashal Khan's family a year after his lynching


The young Pakistani student's murder by a mob on a university campus was another "blasphemy killing," one of the dozens since the 90s. A year on, his family struggles to reconcile with the tragedy.
On March 26, Muhammad Iqbal brought home a white cake. He put some candles on it and asked his wife Syeda Bibi to join him. The cake read: Mashal Khan Shaheed. Mashal Khan, the martyr.
The date had always been a special occasion in their lives but this year was different. This year they were going to cut their son Mashal’s birthday cake for him, because on April 13, 2017, Mashal was lynched.
Surrounded by Mashal’s awards and trophies and photographs on white-washed walls, Iqbal handed the knife to Syeda Bibi and sat down, holding a picture of Mashal on his lap.
Syeda Bibi tried to blow out the candles but even six tries weren’t enough for her to find the energy within; Iqbal had to help her. She took the knife, sliced the white cake and put it aside without a taste.
April 13 marks one year since Mashal was falsely accused of posting blasphemous content online, an accusation so grave in Pakistan that it incited a crowd of students and clerical staff at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan to beat the 23-year-old journalism student to death “He was killed in broad daylight — at a place where people come to seek knowledge,” Iqbal said. “We spent last year going through great difficulties.”
Mashal was shot in the head and the chest at close range, stripped, his body battered and thrown from a second-floor window.
“It wasn’t just a simple murder,” his father told TRT World.
An investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mashal’s brutal death revealed blasphemy was used as a pretext by a student group affiliated with several political parties in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where the university is based. The report and Mashal’s friends said it was his vocal criticism of the university’s administration and support for students rights which led to the plot against him.
Blasphemy relating to the Muslim faith is punishable by death according to Pakistani law and the mere suggestion that a person has committed blasphemy has resulted in the murders of dozens since the law was introduced. The fear of mere association with someone who has been accused of blasphemy kept many of Mashal’s neighbours away from the funeral held in the family's village. The local cleric initially refused to lead the funeral prayers. Iqbal’s hands were weak at Mashal’s funeral, and his legs gave way, but he promised himself something as he lowered his son’s body into the grave.
“I know my Mashal isn’t coming back to the world. But I will fight to get [him] justice, so nothing like this can happen to another innocent child in this country,” a tearful Iqbal said.
And since then, Iqbal hasn’t stayed silent.
He travels from one corner of the country to the other — even abroad — to campaign for justice.
“Someone had to take this step for the future of our kids,” Iqbal said, referring to myriad threats students face in the region. Over 130 students and over a dozen others were slaughtered in an ambush by militants on the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014.
Iqbal and Syeda Bibi’s family was never entirely safe after Mashal’s murder.
Aimal, their other son, works for the Pakistan Air Force. Their two daughters couldn’t continue going to school or college because of security concerns. Although there haven’t been any direct threats, Iqbal is scared about their safety.
“There wasn’t any overt danger to Khan as well,” Iqbal said. “You don’t know about hidden threats, and society has become extremely polarised following the tragedy of my son,” he said.
The love for education was something the two sons and two daughters had in common. When one day the four children came home with five medals, Iqbal remembers the pride he and his wife felt, which one of his relatives tried to temper with a warning against nazar or envy of others.
Iqbal wanted Mashal to become an engineer and sent him to Moscow to study but his son had different dreams. Mashal wanted to become a journalist. He wanted to unearth the truth, and that desire is what Iqbal — and the investigation report — said cost him his life. In February, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) sentenced one man to death and five others to life in prison for the lynching of Mashal. Initially, 26 defendants were acquitted and 25 were sentenced to prison time. Later a high court acquitted the 25 sentenced by the ATC. The family and their lawyer don’t think the verdict reflected the gravity of the crime.
Fazal Khan is one of the lawyers on the Mashal case. Fazal’s 14-year-old son Omer was one of the children killed by the Pakistani Taliban in the Army Public School attack on December 16, 2014. “Mashal’s death reminds me of my deceased son. They say those who lose their mothers always try and find love in other people’s mums,” Fazal said. “I think I am fighting for my son while I fight Mashal’s case.” Although Fazal isn’t completely convinced by the court’s judgement, he is still optimistic. “I know there are weaknesses in the Pakistani judicial system, but that doesn’t mean we should lose hope in getting justice. We have to continue our struggle within the existing system,” Fazal said.
“There is no doubt that the nature of Mashal’s death is different from my son’s, but I will keep fighting for each child of this nation.” Iqbal sees some victory in his own struggle for the children of Pakistan. He pointed to the recent protests organised by young Pashtuns — the major ethnic group from northern Pakistan — after one of their own was killed by the police in Karachi in a “fake encounter.”
Senior Karachi police official Rao Anwar led a police operation against “Taliban militants” and killed Naqeebullah Mehsud, a young aspiring model from South Waziristan, in a staged shoot-out. The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement — a left of centre movement for the protection of Pashtun rights — has mobilised thousands in a series of protests against extrajudicial arrests, killings and disappearances. As for Iqbal, he is still trying hard to keep his son’s case alive. This can be hard in an environment where those who are suspected to have had a hand in killing Mashal have been set free amid celebrations by religious parties in Pakistan.
Although Mashal was posthumously exonerated, the father of one of the students accused of being involved in Mashal’s murder, told the BBC that Mashal committed blasphemy. “He was responsible for his own killing.”
Having lost his son, Iqbal wants to see the youth of Pakistan happy.
Last month the Pakistan Super League cricket final was held in Karachi and thousands of supporters cheered the players inside the Karachi stadium.
“They enjoyed the cricket match and we were happy seeing them happy there.” But, he added, “wouldn’t it be good if Peshawar and other parts of Pakistan affected by terrorism could also host such activities?”
“In my opinion they (Pashtun) are the people who need some happiness and that’s the way towards their success,” said Iqbal.
Speaking to TRT World just before April 13, Iqbal and Syeda Bibi’s family struggled with the first anniversary of their son’s death. Iqbal recalled Mashal last visited his family home in February 2017, when his niece was born. “He hugged the newborn baby girl, kissed her and gave her some presents before he left for university.” Iqbal said that, soon after their son left, Syeda Bibi called Mashal, asking him to come back soon as she was missing him terribly.
“Mashal replied. ‘Mum. don’t worry. I am all right. I have exams at the moment. But I promise I will come on Thursday.”
Mashal did come home on that same Thursday, but in a blood-soaked shroud.

#MashalKhan1stAnniversary - Brutal murder of Mishal Khan has had immense psychological effects on the entire nation and ruthless way his innocent life was taken, will remain a scar on our society for ages: Bilawal Bhutto

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that brutal murder of Mishal Khan has had immense psychological effects on the entire nation, and the ruthless way his innocent life was taken, will remain a scar on our society for ages.
In his message on the first martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Mishal Khan, the PPP Chairman said that the elements that promoted extremism infact mounted an attack on the very foundations of the country that our forefathers had laid with an egalitarian, harmonious and cohesive vision.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said it was a matter of great concern that killers of Mishal Khan had not been punished even after one year of the ghastly incident and it was more shameful that those ruling KPK attempted to protect their party man directly involved in the inhuman lynching.
He said that PPP remains in complete solidarity with the family of Mishal Khan and would continue to raise its voice for justice to them and to the society.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari warned that extremists’ trend of instigating barbaric acts unleashed through unfounded rumours and allegations was equal to an inferno, which could burn everything if went unchecked by government, its institutions and the people.
He said that nation would never forget the innocent Mishal Khan and the grim injustice and atrocities he suffered at the hands of extremism elements.

#Pakistan - #PPP to support #FATA Bill in the Senate

Former President Asif Ali Zardari today said that the Pakistan People’s Party will stand by the people of tribal areas in their struggle for extending jurisdiction of superior courts to tribal areas, merging it with the province of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and allocating share in the NFC Award. All pointers whether economic, linguistic, cultural, geographic contiguity made it natural for the tribal areas to be merged in the province, he said.
He was talking to a delegation of the Tribal Youth Jirga that called on him in the Zardari house in Islamabad today. The 25 member delegation included representatives of FATA youth from all tribal agencies representing all political parties. TV anchor Salim Safi also accompanied the delegation. Former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Secretary General PPP Nayyer Bokhari, Spokesperson Aamir Fida Paracha, President PPP FATA chapter Akhunzada Chattan, President Women wing FATA Dr Saima, Political Secretary Rukhsana Bangash, Fouzia Habib and Secretary General PPPP former Senator Farhatullah Babar were also present in the meeting.
Mr. Zardari said that although the Bill to extend the jurisdiction of superior courts to tribal areas passed recently by the National Assembly fell far short of expectations was ‘too little too late’ but the PPP will support in the Senate to seize the opportunity and flung open the door for further improvements. He said that when the PPP comes into power in this year elections it will move improve upon it and extend the jurisdiction of superior courts to all parts of FATA and with immediate effect.
Reminding that as President he had transferred all powers to the Parliament, he said that for mainstreaming FATA the legislative powers of the President in respect of FATA be also transferred to the Parliament. He said that FATA should also be given share in the NFC Award. The tribal people have been devastated and it was time to put balm on their wounds.
The former President also demanded immediate demolition of the existing system of levy and collection of taxes, cess, levies and rahdari by the political agents in tribal areas which he said was “arbitrary, illegal and a tool for corruption”.
Poor people are subjected to illegal tax on transportation of every merchandise of daily use in what he said was a lucrative business for some and demanded an end to it. He also called for the audit by auditor General of the public spending by the civil-military bureaucratic complex in FATA.
The former President reminded that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the first to petition before the Supreme Court for the voting rights to the people of tribal areas. It was she who first constituted a special committee of the Party on FATA. He said that for the first time in a century the door to reforms in FCR was opened by the PPP during his presidency. For the first time also all political parties were allowed to operate in tribal areas and present an alternate political view and for this purpose the political parties’ order 2002 was extended to the tribal areas’ he said adding the PPP will continue its efforts to further mainstream tribal areas. During the meeting Chairman Bilawal Bhutto also called the former President on the phone from Karachi and emphasized taking forward FATA reforms project.