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University student brutally killed over alleged blasphemy allegations

21 April 2017

Witnesses and local media reported angry students associated with the ruling right-wing political parties in Pakhtunkhwa province used sticks and broken glasses during the attack on Mashal Khan, a journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive topic in Muslim majority Pakistan, where penalties range from small fines to the death sentence and dozens of people are on death row in the country's jails.

Meanwhile, the daughter of Prime Minister of Pakistan Maryam Nawaz Sharif also released her statement to condemn the murder of young student stating that she was shocked to see Mashal Khan killing video.

At least 65 people have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to recent think tank report issued before Thursday's killing. Police said 59 people were arrested from the university for their suspected involvement in the lynching.

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Earlier in the day, a large number of protestors took to the streets in the Zaida town, to defend Mashal as they chanted slogans "Be Gunah, Be Gunah (innocent), Mashal Khan Be Gunah".

The source said Khan and two friends had been in a debate with other students earlier Thursday about his religious views which became so heated that teachers had to lock him in a room for his safety.

Mardan's Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Mohammad Alam Shinwari said the 23-year-old victim died of a fatal gunshot.

Khan was a resident of Swabi village and was studying Journalism and Mass Communication at the University. Four of them have reappeared and at least one has said he was abducted and interrogated by Pakistan's intelligence agencies.The military has denied any part in the activists' disappearances. "I will ensure that the investigation is impartial", he said.

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The mob instead seems to have been incited by rumours circulating among the university's student body. "I heard one officer say it's good that they sent this non-believer to hell", he said.

"The charged students then wanted to burn his body", he told the Pakistani daily.

This is not the first time someone has been killed over allegations of blasphemy in the country. In 2011, a bodyguard assassinated Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer after the politician called for blasphemy law reforms.

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University student brutally killed over alleged blasphemy allegations