None of those involved in the killing of a brilliant student of the Journalism Department at the Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU), Mardan would have thought how this episode shall haunt them and their families for a long time. They probably thought the issue would be hushed up in the name of religion. But the social media (and later the mainstream media) has kept the case still alive even after three weeks.
Today, many want the institution that witnessed the entire episode of Mashal Khan’s lynching at the campus to be named after him — to remember him for being a victim of mob justice; and that too without verifying if he had really committed the crime or otherwise.
People from civil society and thousands of others on social media and from the general public hold that even if he did commit something that was culpable under the law, only the state had the authority to take action against him like it did in another case of blasphemy in Chitral. They want Mashal to be remembered as a victim of mob justice; for that, they have demanded of the government to take a few immediate steps.
A recently-held jirga in Swabi chaired by Mashal’s father, Mohammad Iqbal, and attended by leaders from almost all the political parties has demanded of the government to announce a civil award for Mashal Khan for being a victim of violence, announce a compensation package for his family and name a university after him. The district nazim of Swabi, Amir Rahman, besides making other demands, has asked to name Swabi University after Mashal Khan.
There were some demands immediately after the tragic incident to rename Abdul Wali Khan University as Mashal Khan University. At one time, it was reported in the media that the family had asked the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan on his visit to Mashal Khan’s house to rename the AWKU after Mashal Khan. The chairman had assured them he would try his best to fulfil their demands.
“There are many ways to remember Mashal Khan. The government should rename the Abdul Wali Khan University or a block in the institution after Mashal Khan, launch a Mashal Scholarship for deserving students, announce compensation package for the family and officially honour his father and other family members for showing exemplary patience and courage after the tragedy,” Kashif Khan, a student of the University of Peshawar, tells The News on Sunday. “This needs to be done within no time so that no one else becomes a victim of the mob justice in future.”
Many on social media want the AWKU to be named after Mashal Khan. “Rename the university Mashal Khan University so the degrees of those who stood by and did nothing may haunt them for the rest of their lives,” reads a tweet by comedian Junaid Akram. Hundreds of others on Twitter and Facebook support the demand to rename the university after Mashal.
But this idea is not fully endorsed by many others, especially the supporters of the Awami National Party (ANP) that had named the institution after its leader when the party’s government established the university in Mardan. ANP leaders, however, are more active in demanding justice for the family and honouring Mashal in a better way.
“In my opinion, getting justice for Mashal and his family is important. We also need to declare an education emergency and invest in reforming our education system. Naming an institution after Mashal Khan, who was killed for his knowledge and courage to expose and question the powerful corrupt mafia, without justice and reforms seems a very superficial step,” says Bushra Gohar, a senior leader and former MNA of the ANP.
She supports the unanimous resolution passed by the Swabi District Council to name the University of Swabi after Mashal Khan. “Our universities should be seats of learning not hubs for extremism and corrupt mafias.”
Member District Council Peshawar, Dr Nauman Ul Haq says he is not in favour of changing the name of AWKU. “Wali Khan was a leader of international stature and Mashal himself was his ardent follower. It won’t be fair to remove the name of Wali Khan from a university which was formed in his very name. Yes, the department of journalism or the garden campus could be named after Mashal Khan.”
Haq informs that there was a proposal by the incumbent government to change the names of different universities though there are no documentary proofs of it. “The best would be to name Swabi University (which doesn’t have a specific name) after Mashal Khan as it is in his hometown.”
Amid these demands to honour Mashal and his family, there are still many who are trying to tell the world that the young student was a trigger for this horrific violence because of his views about religion. A rally of thousands of people last week was held in Mardan to demand the early release of those ‘innocent students and others’ held in Mashal’s case. The rally also opposed naming any educational institution after him.
The same happened during a session of the district assembly Mardan where a resolution to honour Mashal Khan was opposed by majority who wanted the inquiry in the case to be completed first.
According to the district police officer Mardan, Dr Mian Saeed Ahmad, 47 of the 49 accused persons have been rounded up and presented before the court already. The one who shot Mashal with his pistol has also been nabbed.
Interestingly, the two accused still at large include a councillor of the ruling PTI, Arif, who can be seen in few videos after the incident. The opposition parties are lambasting the government and police for their failure to round up the ruling party councillor. Some ANP leaders have claimed the councillor was helped by a local party leader to escape abroad.
PTI workers and senior police officials, however, say they have been making all-out efforts to arrest those accused of the murder, including the councillor. According to senior police officers, airports have been alerted. The police also know that the passport of the accused has expired so he would not be able travel, at least with his original documents and via any proper route.
They are confident that those at large will soon be behind bars.