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Even a horrific killing isn’t enough to shake Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

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21.04.2017

With the sudden fury of a flash storm, images of an angry mob lynching a young man to death at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Pakistan, broke across the news cycle and social media platforms to chilling effect April 13. Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student at the institute, had been attacked after a series of accusations that he had posted blasphemous content online following an argument with a group of fellow students. Whether he had done so or not was irrelevant — the insinuation of wrongdoing was enough.

From the moment the allegations were made he was as good as dead. Everything that took place afterward was a brutal formality in a country long driven by a mindset that allows people to kill with impunity whenever they perceive their religious sentiments have been offended. And so it proved in this case also.

The savagery of the assault was captured in chaotic video footage taken on mobile phones, which showed the crowd shouting “Allahu Akbar” and stomping on Khan’s lifeless body — the final rites of a slaughter in which the victim was stripped naked, clubbed, beaten and shot.

But even amid such horrific scenes, the most desperate images were those of Khan’s family stoically facing up to their loss, none more so than his father, who before the full glare of the world’s media called for justice for his son “so that’s incidents like these do not happen with the children of others.” A crowdfunding page has been set up in his name. On top of everything else, the........

© The Japan Times