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Two clerics accused of disrupting funeral of Mashal Khan

17 April, 2017

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PESHAWAR: Police on Sunday opened a hate speech investigation involving two clerics in connection with the killing of a university student over allegations he committed blasphemy. The clerics are accused of attempting to disrupt the funeral of Mashal Khan, who was beaten to death by fellow students after a dormitory debate was followed by accusations of blasphemy being spread across the Abdul Wali Khan University campus in Mardan.

University officials had issued a public notification hours before the murder naming three students being investigated for “blasphemous activities”.

Mardan police chief Alam Shinwari said 20 people had been identified as culpable in the killing on the basis of videos taken during the attack, adding that the suspects would be tried by anti-terrorism courts.

Police say they are also investigating the clerics in Mashal Khan’s hometown of Swabi for attempting to disrupt funeral proceedings and instigate hatred against his family.

“The two clerics [used]... the mosque loudspeaker for hate speech against the slain student and his family and ... created hurdles for the people and another cleric to participate in the funeral,” said a senior Swabi police official. He spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by hardliners.

A local imam had refused to lead Khan’s funeral prayers on Friday, according to Swabi resident Salman Ahmed. A technician who was asked to do so in the cleric’s place was confronted by several people afterwards.

Meanwhile, a large number of men and women took to the streets in the Zaida town, chanting slogans “Be Gunah, Be Gunah (innocent), Mashal Khan Be Gunah.” Relatives and friends, political workers and representatives of civil society groups and the general public participated in the march.

It was probably for the first time in the area that a large number of women, with their heads covered, took part in a mourning procession that turned into a public meeting at a square in the town.

Floral wreaths were placed on the grave of Mashal Khan. People thronged the Hujra of the deceased, offered Fateha and expressed solidarity with the grieving family.

Mardan police on Sunday claimed to have arrested seven more suspects. Two of them were nominated in the FIR while the rest were picked up after some detainees identified them. The total number of those arrested reached 20.

All the seven suspects were produced in the court of a magistrate on special duty on Sunday who remanded them in police custody for a day.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Ikhtiraz Khan said they had received the post-mortem report which confirmed bullet marks on the body.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa IGP Salah-u-Din Mehsud was briefed by DIG Police (Mardan region) Muhammad Alam Shinwari and other officials during a meeting on Sunday.

In Islamabad, the interior ministry said that the Mardan police or the KP government had not yet contacted it for the forensic analysis of Mashal Khan’s Facebook account.

An interior ministry spokesman said that the Federal Investigation Agency would be directed to provide the requ­ired assistance only after a request to this effect was received from the KP government.

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