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view from the courtroom: Forensic agency played key role in tracing accused in Mashal case.

Byline: Waseem Ahmad Shah

The anti-terrorism court, Hazara division, in its detailed judgment in Mashal Khan lynching case had clearly pronounced that the allegations of committing blasphemy by Mashal were unfounded, but were made the basis for his murder.

The court, which conducted trial of the lynching case inside the Haripur central jail, pronounced its judgment on Feb 7 and had convicted 31 of the accused persons, whereas the remaining 26 accused were acquitted. The court had also issued perpetual arrest warrants for four of the absconding accused persons in the case and they were declared as proclaimed offenders.

In its judgment, the court has discussed in detail the evidence put forward by the important prosecution witnesses. A total of 51 prosecution witnesses were examined most of whom were police officials.

One of the most important pieces of evidence is the report of Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA), which after examining the relevant video footages had verified/identified different accused persons therein. The judgment mentioned that 30 of the accused were identified in its report by the PFSA authorities.

The court ruled that video clips produced during prosecution evidence are substantive piece of evidence and in view of Article 164 Qanoon-i-Shahadat is admissible in evidence that no cutting, editing and pasting is reported by the FPSA authorities and the videos were reported to be genuine.

It is mentioned that Section 9 of the PFSA Act describes all persons appointed in the agency shall be deemed as expert and the report sent by the said authorities is admissible in evidence. While the court has acquitted all the accused persons except two of the charges of hatching a criminal conspiracy to kill Mashal, it has discussed their roles in detail. One of the two, Bilal Baksh, was a keypunch operator who was also assigned the duty of security in-charge by the Abdul Wali Khan University's administration. The second accused, Mudassir Bashir, was the class representative in the department of journalism.

The court ruled that 13 of the accused who faced trial were employees of AWKU and all of them had actively participated in the lynching. The court observed that all the 13 accused were posted in other departments and at the same time they were not residing in any of the hostels of the university.

The statement of one of the key prosecution witnesses Ziaullah Hamdard, a teacher at the department of journalism of the university, had proved that one Prof Idrees, who had no concern with the journalism department, had also arrived all of a sudden and later on aggravated the situation.

'Thus there is sufficient proof that accused Mudassir Bashir (CR) called accused Wajahat Ullah early in the morning to come to the university and on his arrival was asked to give details of the blasphemous utterances of Mashal Khan, more so the students who were levelling allegations against Mashal Khan had no concern with the blasphemy or derogatory remarks and those making the allegations had no proof of their allegations,' the court ruled, adding that those unfounded and unestablished allegations were made the basis for the murder of Mashal and accused Mudassir and Bilal Buksh were the actual instigators/abettors of such false allegations.

The trial court has also turned down the contention of some defence counsels that when three of the main accused named Fazal-e-Raziq, Mujeeb Ullah and Ishfaq Khilji were hitting Mashal with sticks and a floral pot, he was not alive.

'From perusal of the videos it shows that accused Fazal-e-Raziq and Mujeeb Ullah gave beating on the head of deceased Mashal Khan with wood whereas accused Ishfaq Khilji threw a heavy floral pot on the head of Mashal Khan. At the time of beating on the head of Mashal Khan by accused Fazal-e-Raziq, the deceased, then injured, moved his hand which shows that at that time he was very much alive and made a failed effort to save his head from beating.' The three of them were awarded life imprisonment by the trial court.

The prime accused, Imran S/O Sultan Mohammad, who has been awarded death sentence, in his confessional statement before a magistrate on April 29, 2017, had confessed that he had fired at Mashal as he had committed blasphemy and he had no repentance over it. Interestingly, during the trial he had retracted from his confession and his counsel suggested during trial that firing was made by another student.

The lone prosecution witness who testified that he had seen the prime accused Imran firing at Mashal, was Sayyab Mohammad (prosecution witness No 36). However, during cross-examination the said witness had given certain answers favouring the defence, therefore, he was declared as hostile witness and was also cross-examined by the prosecution. In his statement the said witness had attributed direct firing to the accused Imran at Mashal.

Sayyab Mohammad had stated during cross-examination that he had been taken to the police station two or three days after the occurrence and he remained there for eight or nine days and during that period police used to beat him and threatened to be made accused if he refused to offer statement against the accused Imran. However, the trial court did not believe his claim of police torture.

In his testimony, one of the witnesses Ali Nawaz, assistant warden Hostel No-1 of AWKU, had given his account, stating that they had bolted the main gate of the hostel when they came to know that a mob was proceeding towards the hostel. He stated that after breaking the main gate the mob entered the hostel and went upstairs and they heard noise of three fire shots due to which the mob dispersed and they got opportunity to go upstairs.

He stated they saw Mashal lying in injured condition on the stairs of second floor. He added that when he picked him up along with two other employees Mohammad Ali and Abbas, Mashal was reciting Kalima and stated that he was innocent and he should be shifted to the hospital.

He stated that they took him to the ground floor, but in the meantime another mob came there and started beating Mashal.

About the 26 acquitted accused the court ruled that no conclusive evidence is brought on record against them and at the same time they were not found to have played any overt act in the lynching whereas though identified in the videos/PFSA report, they could only be seen standing in the mob or making videos.
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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Date:Feb 19, 2018
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