Mashal Khan Yousafzai

A 23-year-old student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Pakistan was killed and another seriously injured by fellow students for allegedly promoting the Ahmadi faith on Facebook , the Dawn has reported. The incident occurred within the university premises.

An eyewitness told Dawn that Mashal Khan Yousafzai and Abdullah, two Mass Communication students, were attacked because of their religious belief.

The eyewitness said a mob of university students first surrounded Abdullah and forced him to recite verses from the Holy Quran. Although he repeatedly denied  that he was an Ahmadi, the students beat him nonetheless. A student requesting anonymity said several leaders of the university’s student bodies were part of the attacking mob.

The police, when alerted, reached the site of the attack and rescued Abdullah, after which the mob set its sights on Mashal, who was in the hostel at the time. Mashal was shot in the head and chest. The mob then continued to beat his body with sticks.

Video footage of the incident showed Mashal lying on the floor surrounded by men. He was not moving and his body bore marks of severe torture. Students could be seen kicking his lifeless body and beating it with wooden planks. The students then wanted to burn his body, before police intervened.

One of Mashal’s teachers later told Reuters that he was a passionate and critical student. “He was brilliant and inquisitive, always complaining about the political system of the country, but I never heard him saying anything controversial against the religion,” the teacher said.

Hostel warden Muhammad Ali, recounting the incident, claimed that: “Three to four thousand students were approaching. I was alerted that they were approaching, so I closed the gates but they broke in, found Mashal and fired at him and started beating him.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed alarm saying it was “greatly saddened that such hair-raising brutality unfolded in a place of higher learning, where students are expected to be tolerant of others’ views. For that is what makes a free exchange of ideas possible.”

Students said police had been alerted of the incident and were present on campus at the time. When asked why they didn’t intervene, police said there were “too many people” for them to take on.

The campus was shut down following the incident until further notice and its hostels vacated to avoid a further escalation of violence. At least 45 people were arrested.

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