PESHAWAR/Mardan -  Police opened a hate speech investigation against two clerics on Sunday, after the killing of a university student by a mob over allegations he committed blasphemy.

The clerics are accused of attempting to disrupt the funeral of Mashal Khan, who was beaten to death by fellow students after a dormitory debate was followed by accusations of blasphemy being spread across Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan (AWKUM).

University officials had issued a public notification hours before the murder - naming three students being investigated for “blasphemous activities”. But after the gruesome killing, it disowned the notification.

Mardan police chief Alam Shinwari said 20 people had been identified as culpable in the killing on the basis of videos taken during the attack, and 15 had been arrested. He said they would be tried by anti-terrorism courts.

Police say they are also investigating the clerics in Khan’s hometown of Swabi, some 60 kilometres south of Mardan, for attempting to disrupt funeral proceedings and instigate hatred against the dead student’s family.

The two clerics used the mosque loudspeaker for hate speech against the slain student and his family and created hurdles for the people and warned another cleric against leading the funeral, a senior Swabi police official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by religious hardliners.

A local imam had refused to lead the funeral prayers at Khan’s funeral on Friday, according to Swabi resident Salman Ahmed. A technician who was asked to do so in the cleric’s place was confronted by several people afterwards.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police chief Salahud Din Mehsud said on Sunday that investigation into Mashal’s murder was heading in the right direction and soon all people nominated in the FIR would be arrested.

The provincial Inspector General of Police chaired a meeting in connection with AWKUM incident at regional police office (RPO), a statement issued here said.

Mardan RPO Alam Khan Shinwari, district police officer Dr Mian Saed Ahmed, SP Operations Abdur Rauf Babar, SP Investigation Shafiullah Khan Gandapur and officials of counter-terrorism department (CTD) attended the meeting.

The RPO and DPO gave briefings to the IGP, telling him that majority of those nominated in the first information report had been arrested and the case was progressing at a fast pace. They said that two more accused had been arrested on Sunday, bringing the number of the arrested to 15.

According to the statement, the police chief appreciated efforts of Mardan police in Mashal murder case. He directed for ensuring the arrest of the remaining accused at the earliest and investigate the case in a transparent manner. The local media was not informed about the police chief’s visit.

ANP TO EXPEL WORKERS

INVOLVED IN MASHAL’S MURDER

Staff Reporter from Swabi adds: Awami National Party’s provincial deputy general secretary Aimal Wali Khan said on Sunday that any worker found involved in Mashal’s murder would no longer remain part of the party.

He was talking to media after visiting residence of Muhammad Iqbal, father of Mashal, who was lynched by fellow students and others inside Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan (AWKUM) on April 13.

In response to a question, Aimal said Awami National Party (ANP) leaders and workers were true followers of non-violence philosophy of Bacha Khan and those found involved in acts against this philosophy would be expelled from the party.

He said the party leadership always advocated the philosophy of non-violence and upheld it in all circumstances.