There is a long history in Pakistan of dissenting voices being silenced on the pretext of religion. While the state has been complicit in this travesty several times, the most problematic instance is mobs taking the law in their own hands. Such an incidence took place in April this year, when a student of University of Mardan , Mashaal Khan, was lynched on the rumors of using ‘un-Islamic remarks’ on social media.

The resultant outrage and the investigation that followed revealed a sinister conspiracy involving the faculty and local political leaders in inciting the mob. The indicting of 57 individuals by Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Haripur against the lynching of Mashaal Khan hopefully indicates that the state is finally not letting the people to take religious affairs and state law into their own hands.

The ATC is fully empowered to deal with this instance, its procedures and the powers at its disposal should ensure its ability to effectively try and sentence the individuals involved in the incident – especially in a case that is being avidly followed by the public. With the government’s support ATCs have been able to try and hang Mumtaz Qadri, a man with much more organized and violent support, the present ATC should be able to try the Mashaal case comfortably.

It is hoped that the state will deal with the incited individuals without any flexibility. If these people are set free, the society will face further tragic incidents. The state needs to punish those responsible for the brutal murder of Mashaal and set a strong precedent against such acts. Only then people will be discouraged from taking the law into their own hands. Only then justice will be served.