ISLAMABAD - Newly discovered mobile phone video showed a group of people congratulating each other over the lynching of a university student accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. The video, which first appeared on social media before being picked up by various Pakistani TV channels, showed a man waving his arms and addressing a group of people around him.
“A hearty congratulations to all of you. Do not name the one who shot him. Anyone who names him will be considered a traitor,” he said in the local Pashto language. Other people in the video waved in agreement and shouted, “Allah-o-Akbar,” or God is great.
Local police said the man in the video is already in custody along with more than a dozen other people identified from CCTV or mobile footage.
A mob of university students attacked and shot fellow student Mashal Khan of Abdul Wali Khan University in the city of Mardan in Pakistan’s northwestern KPK province last week.
Mobile phone footage, widely circulated on social media, showed Khan’s body with the clothing ripped off and signs of severe beating. Angry men continued to attack the body with kicks, bricks, and screwdrivers, and they threw heavy planters on his head.
One of Khan’s friends said in his court statement that he was under pressure by other students and some in the university administration to accuse Khan of blasphemy. When he refused, he was attacked.
The case has generated widespread condemnation across the nation. The country’s Supreme Court has taken notice of the incident and local police have submitted their initial report in the case. The lower house of parliament has adopted a unanimous resolution condemning the murder.
The national reaction in this case is unprecedented in Pakistan where a charge of blasphemy almost certainly means either death or a life in hiding. More than 50 people have been killed in violent incidents after being accused of blasphemy since the 1980's, according to Human Rights Watch.
International human rights organizations frequently criticize Pakistan’s blasphemy laws that carry a death sentence, for being a convenient tool often used to settle disputes.
“There is overwhelming evidence that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws violate human rights and encourage people to take the law into their own hands,” Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s director of global issues, said last year.
When a powerful Pakistani governor, Salman Taseer, protested the blasphemy laws in 2011, one of his police security guards gunned him down.
Islamist groups celebrated the guard, Mumtaz Qadri, while a group of lawyers showered him with rose petals and represented him pro bono in court. When he was eventually executed, more than 100,000 people attended his funeral.
Religious extremists in 2014 killed Rashid Rehman, a lawyer who represented a university professor against a charge of blasphemy. His client remains in prison.