The Story of Mashal Khan – The Student Lynched in Pakistan for “Blasphemy”

When I kissed his hands, even his fingers were broken.

said the slain Mashal Khan’s mother, in a melancholic voice. Mashal Khan was a 23-year-old boy – tall, handsome, & well built. On Thursday, 13th April 2017, a mob of some 3500 educated university students lynched him to death for allegedly posting “blasphemous” content on Facebook.

His father, Iqbal Shayar, was a labourer. He is too old to work now. He is an avid poet. Despite his humble background, he is well-read. He had trained his children to have a rational approach. This is where he failed them.

The daily wages labourer could not support his son’s education. Other relatives, despite their own humble backgrounds, supported Mashal Khan. However, Mashal was not the kind of guy to take such things for granted. A brilliant student, he secured a scholarship to Institute of Computer and Management Sciences. It is the largest private college in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. He went on to top the college in FSc (a common Pre-engineering course in Pakistan).

A brilliant student, he secured another scholarship for engineering in Moscow, Russia. He could have secured a six-digit-salary-fetching job. However, the love for his country and his passion for serving it brought him back to Pakistan after completing his engineering.

From a foreign return graduate, he became a CSS (Central Superior Services) aspirant. He joined Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Pakistan to pursue a Masters Degree in Mass Media and Journalism.

Iqbal Shayar, his acute poverty notwithstanding, continued to support his son’s education. Why wouldn’t he? Mashal Khan would carry the mashal (torch) of his legacy. Chances are that he must have given up his meals to fund his education. We will never know.

Mashal himself had told his mother that he wanted to see his father proud of him one day. His family cared for and supported him wherever they could. He would not let them down. They had invested their everything on him. And he was doing everything in his capacity to give back to them, and the society.

Mashal Khan dreamt of serving the society
But the “civilized” society had no place for him

Had Mashal Khan taken the job abroad, not only would he have been alive today, but would also be able to take his parents out of their misery faster. His vision for serving his people, his country, and the society brought him to his death. As my friend Imtiaz Mahmood puts it:

Amidst the shouts of “Glory of God”, a glorious future was lost, Amidst shrieks of Kafir, an inquisitive soul was lost, Amidst mayhem, a conviction to better the society was crushed. In darkness at noon, a Supernova was turned into a Black Hole.

I was shell-shocked when I read the news earlier today. What kind of society kills 23-year-old boys who are dreaming of serving it? Which country kills men who care for its people and its land? While most of Pakistan has survived on American or Chinese aid, this man chose to stay back home; despite being in a position where he could live a comfortable life with his parents in a first world country in Europe or North America.

My thoughts wandered in the direction of his mother. I did not want to imagine her condition. Not because I am indifferent; but because I did not have the guts to. And as of Iqbal Miyaan, I wonder where his vision went wrong. Was he at the wrong place? Or was he too far ahead of his time? Either way, he deserves a pat on his back for giving us the gem that we know as Mashal Khan.

Some 3,500 men had participated in his lynching. On the other hand, not even 20 attended the funeral. The murderer Mumtaz Qadri‘s had over 1,00,000 in attendance. if this is not a living example of the religious extremism prevalent in Pakistan, I don’t know what is. Ironically, Mashal Khan’s Facebook nickname is “the Humanist”. And his last words? They were:

No one believes the Prophet Alayhi As-salām [Peace be upon him] more than I do.
I never committed blasphemy. I am Sufi myself. Please take me to the hospital.