Pakistan News

Verdict reserved on pleas against Mashal Khan case convictions, acquittals

Verdict reserved on pleas against Mashal Khan case convictions, acquittals

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday reserved its judgment on multiple appeals against the two judgments of the anti-terrorism courts related to the conviction and acquittal of the accused for the 2017 lynching of university student Mashal Khan.

A bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Syed Attique Shah conducted marathon hearings for seven days in dozens of appeals field by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, Mashal’s father Mohammad Iqbal Khan and 33 of the convicts.

The bench didn’t fix any date for the pronouncement of the verdict.

Multiple appeals were filed by the KP government and Mohammad Iqbal Khan seeking cancellation of the acquittal of 28 of the accused and an increase in the sentences of 25 of the convicts, who were awarded three years imprisonment, and those of seven others, who were handed down life imprisonment.

PHC completes hearing into appeals filed by govt, lynching victim’s father, 33 convicts

Similarly, appeals were filed by convict Imran Khan, who was sentenced to death by the trial court, seven, who were awarded life imprisonment, and 25 others, who were sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of the Department of Mass Communication at the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, was lynched by a mob over the allegation of blasphemy on April 13, 2017.

On Feb 7, 2018, an anti-terrorism court had convicted 31 of the 57 accused, who had initially faced trial in the lynching case, awarding death sentence to the prime accused Imran Khan, life imprisonment to five of them, and three years imprisonment to 25 others.

However, the court, which had conducted trial inside the Haripur Central Prison, had acquitted 26 of the accused declaring that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.

It had also issued perpetual warrants for the arrest of four of the absconding accused, including Arif Khan, who was a tehsil councillor of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Asad Zia alias Asad Katlang, an office assistant at the university, and students Izharullah alias Joni and Sabirullah alias Sabir Mayar.

The absconders were later held and tried by another ATC in Peshawar.

During the trial, the court on Mar 21, 2019, convicted Arif and Asad and sentenced them on multiple counts to life imprisonment and Rs300,000 fine each. The two other accused were acquitted.

The provincial government had appointed Barrister Aminullah Khan Chamkani as the special prosecutor for the appeals. He was assisted by additional advocates general Nisar Khan and Mujahid Ali Khan.

Lawyers Shahab Khattak, Ayaz Khan and others represented Mohammad Iqbal.

Several lawyers appeared for the convicted and acquitted accused.

They included Ghulam Mohiuddin Malik, Shabbir Hussain Gigyani, Akbar Zaman, Shakeel Ahmad, Inayat Shah Bacha and Imtiazur Rehman.

Barrister Amirullah Khan Chamkani argued that it was a case of criminal conspiracy, which was proved against the accused without any shadow of doubt.

He said the offence of the accused was proved by the ‘ocular evidence’ given by DSP Haider Khan and other prosecution witnesses.

The lawyer said video footage of the lynching incident clearly showed the presence of the accused in the culpable mob and that footage was admissible under the Qanoon-i-Shahadat.

He said prime accused Imran, who had fired at Mashal, had confessed to his crime and that evidence available on record ‘fully’ connected him with the commission of the offence.

The lawyer said accused Arif was a councillor and not a university student but even then, he was present at the crime scene and that he instigated students through provocative speeches as revealed by video footage.

Barrister Amirullah said all oral statements of the prosecution witnesses supported by video clips, photographs and recoveries made from the spot clearly showed that some accused had provoked students and others to violence by delivering provocative speeches against Mashal Khan and had taken active part in the lynching by hatching a criminal conspiracy.

He said in pursuance of that criminal conspiracy, an unlawful assembly was made for using criminal force and violence, which led to the barbaric death of Mashal.

The defence counsel said no specific roles were assigned to the accused and that they were falsely implicated in the case.

They said merely their clients’ presence at the lynching place didn’t prove their involvement in the offence.

The counsel said the confessional statements of some accused were faulty as the relevant magistrate didn’t fulfil legal requirements while recording the same and that those confessions were taken ‘under coercion’.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020

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