The Mashal Khan lynching case has been pending for over 10 months. The case came to the forefront in April 2017 and shook the entire country. The details and the imagery were both gruesome and it was not easy to believe that students in a university got together to commit such a heinous crime. The struggle of the past 10 months has highlighted some very important aspects in the case. The first was the involvement of the local political authorities in instigating the mob; the second was the use of false accusations of blasphamey, and the third was the shocking ease with which people believed them without proof.

The verdict given yesterday provides some measure of justice and solace to a stunned country and assures us that the justice system of Pakistan can still deliver. It can still be the representative of the innocent people in the country and a ray of hope for those waiting for justice. The last 10 months have been extremely difficult for Mashal’s family. His father has been working as a lone figure, pleading for justice, while his sisters have not been able to get out the house because of threats. The family deserves to see the perpetrators punished and to prove the innocence of their loved one.

However, the verdict is not without objection. Mashal’s family is right in pointing out the lack of punishment for PTI local councillor Arif Khan’s – who was implicated in the investigation. Furthermore the acquittal of 26 people under trial is also worrying. The mob that lynched Mashal was dozens strong – but only a few have been given sentences. Anticipating the agitation the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) government has already filed an appeal to challenge the acquittals, but it remains to be seen if it can muster up enough evidence to convince a superior court.

The trial, and now the verdict, have also shown us the limitations of our legislative framework surrounding mob violence – be it murder, arson or vandalism. Courts and prosecutions find it difficult to satisfy tradition legal definitions of guilt and struggle to gather admissible evidence for each individual accused; meaning that apart from a few central character most of the mob goes free.

The issues that have come to light in this tragic episode – false accusations of blasphemy, increasing intolerance, and inadequate legislative control mechanism – need to be addressed to truly provide justice for Mashal.