Crimes related to blasphemy are a serious offence in the country and penalties range from small fines to the death sentence. Crimes of false accusations and mob brutality should also be punishable in the same way. It is a failure of our state and society, that we refuse to believe people are innocent until proven guilty, and this must be rectified by the public condemnation of the brutal murder of Mashal Khan, and legal action to change our archaic penal codes.

While most mainstream political parties have condemned the violence in Mardan, important religious leaders are silent on the matter - and their voices are the ones that matter when it comes to the de-radicalisation of the Pakistani populace. Mashal Khan was not a “liberal”, was not from a religious minority, and was not from an ethnic minority. He was a moderate Muslim, whose only crime was that he was studious and critical. The societal witchunt is not just against those who hold alternative views, but against the intellectuals and moderates in it - no one is safe, unless they are silent.

Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pervez Khattak, has announced a judicial inquiry to find out how the incident unfolded and said that there is no evidence of blasphemy committed by Mashal Khan. The KP government must not be allowed to backtrack on this claim. It is under this government that first curriculums came under the purview of religious organisations with dangerous leanings and funds were allocated to Darul-Uloom Haqqania rather than to state schools and hospitals. It has to rectify this tilt. While the KP government may have presided over the radicalisation of its people the Federal Government is no different. From the murder to Salman Taseer, to the open celebration of his killer Mumtaz Qadri as a martyr by hordes of extremists, administrations and legislators have been either scared, or asleep.

In Mardan, the Abdul Wali Khan University itself may have been complicit in the murder, as it has been alleged that the university itself issued a notification of five students being watched for blasphemy, effectively painting a target on their backs. The inquiry must hold the university administration accountable for such a controversial accusation.

The judicial inquiry will only find what we already know - that an innocent young man was murdered. The real task is to punish the perpetrators, and set an example. These are dark times, and debate on the controversial blasphemy law has to take place, even if it offends people. The common man is in no position to do this, as he will be murdered by ruthless mobs, the political leadership must take the responsibility or see more hate and violence destroy more families.