LAHORE - Students and activists of various organisations staged a demonstration in front of the Lahore Press Club on Friday to mark one year of lynching of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan.

Khan was lynched by his fellow students allegedly on the instigation of the university administration on April 13, 2017.

The participants in the demonstration were carrying placards inscribed with slogans like “Killed on Campus”, “Justice for Mashal” and I Am Mashal”. They called for educational institutions to become intellectual spaces that encourage critical discourse.

Mashal’s father Muhammad Iqbal addressed participants in the demonstration over the phone.

Zafar Khan, student at the Government College Department of Political Science, said that extremist ideas and use of violence to curb the freedom of expression on campuses should be identified and dealt with strict administrative policies. “We feel we have no freedom at all on the campus and students like Mashal Khan, who were raising their voice and giving a new narrative on national policies, are being silenced,” Zafar said.

Ali Behram, a graduate from the GCU and member of a rights group, said Khan’s death was a failure of the state, which has given a free hand to fascist tendencies to assert themselves in our public spaces.”

Saifullah Wazir from tribal areas raised slogans for revival of students unions on the campuses. He said Khan was raising a sane voice against mainstream policies. “We should develop harmony and peace on our university campuses where everyone can listen to and respond to different points of views.

“We demand that the government stop nurturing extremist mindset on campuses and allow freedom of expression to prevail on university campuses and in our society,” Saifuullah said.

Members of the Feminist Collective performed a Punjabi song titled “Asaan Keeta Na Manzoor” symbolising resistance and refusal to continue with the state’s approach that breeds alienation, hatred and animosity to the masses.

Members of Azad Funkar, an independent theatre group, performed a play recreating the horrific incident of lynching of Khan.

The idea was to set the record straight, explained Takreema Arooj, who leads the theatre troupe. “Mashal Khan was killed on the instigation of the university administration, which he had exposed as being corrupt and it was not about blasphemy.”

Ziaullah Hamdard, Mashal Khan’s teacher and key witness in the murder case in the Supreme Court, addressed the students at the demonstration.

Students from various universities like Punjab University, Government College University Lahore, FAST and Beaconhouse National University participated in the protest.

Other groups that participated included the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Progressive Students Collective, Women's Collective, PTCL Workers Union, Lahore Left Front, The Feminist Collective, People's Solidarity Forum Azaad Fankaar, Agrarian and Environmentalist Collective, Lawyers Solidarity Forum, Democratic Students’ Alliance, Revolutionary Students Front, People’s Students Federation, Pushtoon Education and Development Movement, Pushtoon Falahi Jirgah, Sangat, Lahore Students Federation, Team Awaaz, Civil Society of Gilgil-Baltistan, Find Raza Friends, Progressive Labour Federation, Digital Rights Foundation, Bhatta Mazdoor Union, Hazara Students Community, Baloch Council, Seraiki Council, Railway Workers Union, Awami Workers Party and Progressive Youth Federation.