The Pakistani bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), strongly condemned the killing of a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in the city of Mardan and demanded that the government take stern action against the perpetrators.
Mashal Khan, a journalism student was dragged from his hostel room, beaten, stripped, thrown off the second floor and shot to death on April 13. His body was also desecrated. A second student was also beaten up by the mob but was rescued by police and taken to hospital.
In a statement, commission leaders, Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad, Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of the Pakistani Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace and Cecil Shane Chaudhry, it's executive director, linked the murder with the presence of hate and discriminative material in the country's education system.
Such material should be removed from every school textbook if we want to create a peaceful and tolerant society. The university should develop thinking minds, who can accept and value the opinion of others despite their faith or belief. We need to teach our young students the virtues of tolerance, coexistence and acceptance," they said in their statement.
Parvez Khattak, chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told the provincial assembly that no evidence was found to suggest that Khan had committed blasphemy.
Minority Rights Watch, a group representing non-Muslim organizations, held a protest in Lahore to condemn the murder. "We demand the government end the culture of mob violence under the pretext of blasphemy," organization chief Kashif Nawab said.
Masiha Millat Party, a Christian political party, said Khan's murder was another "chilling reminder of the radicalization of our youth. It is high time that the state confronts the ideology which breeds hatred and extremism," said Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra, the party's leader in a statement.
Christian leaders have long campaigned against the misuse of blasphemy laws that have led to many incidents of mob violence. The law mandates that anyone who "blasphemes" the Quran is to be handed a death sentence.
Church leaders have charged that the laws are abused for personal gain and that religious extremists are furthering their agenda by abusing blasphemy laws.
On the day of his murder, Khan reportedly had a heated debate during a class. The 23-year-old was allegedly known for having secular and liberal views. The mob attack took place shortly after the university created a committee to investigate Khan's and two other students' "blasphemous activities." The committee banned them from the campus.
Meanwhile Mufti Muhammad Haneef Qureshi a Pakistani Imam is calling for Asia Bibi a Christian mother imprisoned for seven years for alleged blasphemy to be hanged. According to some well-known Islamic preachers, the lynching of the Mardan student was due to frustration of some Muslims over the delay of the execution of Asia Bibi.
The Mufti Muhammad Haneef Qureshi said before the cameras: "If sinners declared blasphemous by the courts, were not granted extensions in their punishment, students would not act in this way. People have lost faith in the state, due to the carelessness of the institutions and their criminal silence. Incidents like that of Wali Khan University will continue as long as people feel insulted in their religious sentiments ".
Speaking to AsiaNews Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference, condemns the imams "misrepresentation": "They should look at the reality. They should discourage people from taking the law into their own hands. The mosques should stop these provocative announcements".
Just like the mufti, other imams have asked that the death sentence be carried out against Asia Bibi. According to Muslims, if the woman were hanged, her execution would act as a deterrent against mass violence. In this way the Islamic leaders justify the atrocious incident last week in the university campus of Mardan, on charges of having published comments in favor of the Ahmadi faith on Facebook.
According to statistics of the NCJP and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 59 people have been killed extra-judicially since the passing of blasphemy laws in 1988.(UCAN, AsiaNews)