Dorm debate led to death in Pakistan ‘blasphemy killing’

Pakistani activists shout slogans during a protest in Karachi on April 14, 2017, against the killing of student Mashal Khan, who was killed by his classmates. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2017

Dorm debate led to death in Pakistan ‘blasphemy killing’

PAKISTAN: The ransacked university hostel room of slain Pakistani student Mashal Khan has posters of Karl Marx and Che Guevara still hanging on the walls, along with scribbled quotes including one that reads: “Be curious, crazy and mad.”
The day before, a heated debate over religion with fellow students broke out at the dorm and led to people accusing Khan of blasphemy against Islam. That attracted a crowd that grew to several hundred people, according to witnesses.
The mob kicked in the door, dragged Khan from his room and beat him to death, witnesses and police said.
The death in the northwestern city of Mardan is the latest violence linked to accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Those who knew Khan described him as an intellectually curious student who openly professed devotion to Islam but asked many questions.
“Whatever he had to say, he would say it openly, but he didn’t understand the environment he was living in,” said one of Khan’s teachers at Abdul Wali Khan University, who declined to be named for fear of retribution.
Aziz ur Rehman, a caretaker at the hostel who witnessed Khan’s debate with his fellow students, said he brought up arcane subjects such as whether the offspring of Adam and Eve — the original humans in Islamic texts as well as Judeo-Christian ones — would have married each other, raising the issue of incest.
Crimes related to blasphemy are a serious offense in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and penalties range from small fines to the death sentence.
At least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media, and dozens more convicted of the crime are currently on death row in Pakistani jails.
The Pakistani government has yet to comment publicly on Khan’s killing.
In March, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued an order for the removal of blasphemous content online, and said anyone who posted such content should face “strict punishment under the law.”
Police say they have arrested 20 suspects involved in Khan’s murder and have found no evidence to substantiate blasphemy allegations.
IMAM REFUSES LAST RIGHTS
Rehman, the caretaker, said Khan was alive when the police arrived, but that they did not approach the hostel until it was too late.
“They could have easily saved his life but they stood away from the mob ... I heard one officer say it’s good that they sent this non-believer to hell,” he said.
Mardan police chief Mohammad Alam Shinwari denied the allegation that officers did not do enough to save Khan.
“When we entered the campus, he had already been killed and the mob was trying to burn his body,” he said.
In Khan’s home town of Swabi, around 60 km south of Mardan, his father, Iqbal Shaer, said the accusations of blasphemy were unfounded. “First they killed my son and now they are adding salt to our wounds,” he told Reuters.
Shaer, who runs a small business selling biscuits and chocolates to local retailers, said he had always been a lover of poetry and literature and encouraged his children to express themselves and appreciate the arts.
He added: “My wife told me this morning that she spent her life taking care of her son, but those who killed him have wasted that long struggle.”
At Khan’s funeral, the imam at the local mosque refused to read the last rights, 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.
Khan has since been buried.


Kabul investigates deaths of three Afghans in Iran attack

The incident could add to rising tensions between the two countries. (Twitter)
Updated 07 June 2020

Kabul investigates deaths of three Afghans in Iran attack

  • Wednesday’s incident could add to rising tensions between the two countries following Kabul’s recent allegation that 13 Afghan migrants had drowned on May 1

KABUL: Kabul sent its envoy to Tehran, Ghafoor Liwal, to Iran’s Yazd province on Saturday after reports that at least three Afghan refugees died in a car which was allegedly fired at by Iranian police in the area, officials told Arab News.
“Our ambassador has traveled to Yazd province to probe this incident in the face of reports that Iranian police fired at a car carrying these Afghans,” said Gran Hewad, chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Wednesday’s incident could add to rising tensions between the two countries following Kabul’s recent allegation that 13 Afghan migrants had drowned on May 1 when Iranian border guards forced the group into a river at gunpoint.
In a video message posted on the ministry’s website on Friday evening, Liwal said that at least 13 people were in the car when the latest incident took place.
The envoy said he was “seriously working” to determine the circumstances of the incident and also would investigate the drowning claim.
Liwal said Ahmad Tarahumi Bahabadi, deputy governor of Yazd, had confirmed that Iranian police had opened fire on the vehicle after it failed to stop when asked.
“Apparently, this car was used by a human trafficker and was carrying a number of our countrymen. They were confronted by the police, who instructed them to stop, but they did not stop. Police fired on the car and as a result of the shooting a tire was hit,” Liwal said, adding that the vehicle continued to be driven at full speed until the “tire burst and the car caught fire.”
A statement said that the Afghan delegation, led by Liwal, would identify the victims and the wounded. “Survivors in the hospital told us that they had informed the driver about the fire, but unfortunately he did not stop and continued to drive until the car crashed, killing three and severely wounding others,” Liwal said.
The Iranian Embassy in Kabul could not be reached for comment when contacted by Arab News.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Zabihullah Farhang, told Arab News that the agency had heard about the incident but could not investigate because it had taken place in Iran.

AIHRC chief Sharzad Akbar called for the public release of Iran’s investigation into the drowning of the Afghan migrants and demanded a probe of the latest case.
“The incident in Yazd that led to the burning of passengers in a car needs to be investigated and perpetrators need to be held accountable,” she said in a tweet on Saturday. “Human lives matter. Refugees rights are human rights,” she added. Iran is home to nearly 3 million Afghans, both legal refugees and illegal immigrants. Afghans often use illegal smuggling routes along the 900 km border to travel to Iran in search of work.
However, since the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, where more than 8,000 people have died from the disease, tens of thousands of Afghans have returned home.
Several videos of Wednesday’s incident – shared on social media platforms and viewed by hundreds – show a car ablaze, with a burning body in its boot.
The video received widespread condemnation in Afghanistan, with the hashtag “bring me water I am burning” trending on Saturday.
It follows a video showing a young boy near the vehicle begging for water.
“This is becoming more ugly... complete violation of too many laws & rules... shameful,” Orzala Nimat, a researcher, tweeted on Friday night.
Jalal Barakzay, a 21-year-old university student, wrote on Facebook that Kabul “should hold Iran accountable” for the incident and “other abuses committed by Iran against Afghan refugees.”
In recent years, Iran and Afghanistan have had an uneasy relationship, with Kabul accusing Tehran of using Afghan Shiite migrants to fight proxy wars in the Middle East, as well as providing cash and arms to Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan government and US-led troops in Afghanistan.
“I do not know what sort of steps Kabul will take if it is proven that Iranian police had deliberately carried this out, but relations will become more abnormal than in the past,” said Taj Mohammad, an analyst, adding that public anger was growing over the number of incidents.
“People are angry, the government in Kabul is under pressure from the public because this is the second reported incident against Afghans in Iran in just over a month,” he added.