PESHAWAR Inspector General in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Salahuddin Khan Mehsud announced Monday that the police had arrested 22 people after the lynching of a university student accused of blasphemy.
A large mob attacked journalism student Mashal Khan last Thursday, stripping, beating and shooting him before throwing from the second floor of his hostel at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the conservative northwestern town of Mardan.
The brutality of the attack, recorded on a mobile phone camera, shocked the public and led to widespread condemnation, including from prominent clerics.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to prosecute the perpetrators as protests broke out in several cities.
Salahuddin Khan Mehsud told a press conference the number of people arrested in connection with the case had risen to 22, from 12 at the weekend. They were mainly students but also included some university clerical workers.
He said police had so far found no evidence to support the blasphemy allegations against Khan, and condemned the university for investigating the case without police involvement.
A second senior police officer, who requested anonymity, said many members of the police, prosecution service and judiciary sympathised with the attackers and he did not expect any guilty verdicts.
He added that although arrests had been made on the basis of CCTV footage and video clips, a court would require witnesses to come forward and past experience had shown this would not be likely — partly because Pakistan has no witness protection programmes.
Meanwhile, Mashal’s injured friend has recorded statement and said that he was called to campus by a student where enraged mob attacked him but he managed to escape the scene. He also alleged that university administration was involved in the mishap.
On the other hand, the court has sent eight suspects on three-day while four suspects on four-day physical remand.
Vigilantes have murdered 65 people over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to research compiled by the Center for Research and Security Studies think-tank.