Lynching Suspect Says Pakistani University Demanded He Claim Slain Student Committed Blasphemy

A suspect involved in the lynching of a Pakistani college student accused of blasphemy after a dormroom debate reportedly said that officials at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan told him that anyone who defended the victim would be handled with an "iron hand."

REUTERS/Fayaz AzizPolice search the dorm room of Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, who was killed by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Pakistan April 14, 2017.

According to the Pakistani news site Dawn.com, a suspect by the name of Wajahat was arrested following the lynching of 23-year-old Mashal Khan, a student who described himself as a person who embraced Islam but also had many questions.

As previously reported, Khan was killed by an enraged mob last week after he engaged in a heated debate over religion with other students in the dorm, which caused some to accuse Khan of committing blasphemy.

After a crowd of enraged Muslims grew to several hundred people in size, Reuters reports that the mob kicked Khan's dorm door down, dragged him from the room, beat and shot him to death.

Dawn reports that Wajahat, who admitted that he was part of the mob that killed Khan, said in a statement that he was called to the university chairman's office on April 13, the day of the lynching, and was asked to testify against Khan and further promote the claim that he had committed blasphemy before the school administration.

In Pakistan, blasphemy laws are often used by Muslims to settle personal scores and can often lead victims to be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. In a number of cases, people accused of blasphemy are victims of social violence and mob attacks.

"Some 15 to 20 people, including university officials were present at the chairman's office," Wajahat was quoted as saying. "The administration had convened the meeting to decide the case of Mashal Khan and Bashir (a class representative) had called me to be a witness regarding the blasphemous ideas of Mashal Khan."

Wajahat also claimed that Bilal Baksh, the university's head security officer, told him that those who come forward to defend Khan would be dealt with "an iron hand." Additionally, Wajahat claimed that Baksh threatened to kill Khan himself.

"Hearing this, the congress turned into a violent mob and rushed towards the hostel," Wajahat stated.

Another student named Abdullah, who was also attacked by the mob but survived, was also asked to testify against Khan but refused, according to Dawn.com. Abdullah, who was accused of belonging to the peaceful Ahmadi Muslim faith, survived the attack thanks to police who intervened and prevented the attackers from causing him further harm.

Geo.tv reports that a total of 32 suspects have been arrested for their involvement in Khan's lynching. Eight more were arrested on Thursday and presented before an anti-terrorism court.

After Khan's lynching, a video emerged showing the mob of Muslims celebrating and congratulating each other for carrying out their murderous deed.

International human rights activists have long called on the Pakistani government to repeal its corrupt blasphemy laws. An exiled Muslim theologist has even argued that Pakistan's blasphemy laws are against the Quran.

A Christian mother accused of blasphemy in 2009 has sat for years in Pakistani prison after Muslim women alleged that she had committed blasphemy. She is currently waiting for her death sentence appeal to be heard by the Pakistan Supreme Court.

In 2014, a married Christian couple was beaten and burned to death by an enraged Muslim mob in Kot Radha Kishan after they were accused of blasphemy. Over two years after the couple was killed, five suspects were sentenced to the death penalty for their involvement. However, activists want more people to be held accountable for the murder.

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