MARDAN - A senior civil judge on Saturday sent Sabir Mayar, the recently-held accused in Mashal murder case, on judicial remand while the accused denied his involvement in the crime, police said.

On March 18, Mayar surrendered to the police at the office of District Police Officer Dr Mian Saeed Ahmad.

Later, the police presented Mayar before the anti-terrorist court (ATC). The ATC judge Youns Khan handed over the accused to the police on 4-day remand. On Saturday, the police presented him in the court of Senior Civil Judge Asim Riaz, where the accused claimed innocence. The judge sent him on judicial remand.

Including Mayar, 60 accused have been arrested in the case so far, though several of them had been set free by the Peshawar High Court after accepting their bail pleas. However, one of the accused, Asad Katlang, is still at large.

On April 13, 2017, a mob of students and employees of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan and outsiders had lynched journalism student Mashal Khan after accusing him of having committed blasphemy.

Chief Justice Supreme Court Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had taken notice of the incident and later, on his orders, a 13-member joint investigation team had been formed to probe the case. On June 3, 2017, the JIT completed its report and submitted the same in the court. The report exposed alleged incompetence of the university administration, failure of the police and presence of criminal mindset in the ranks of Pakhtun Students Federation (PkSF).

According to the JIT report, Mashal Khan, a brilliant student of journalism with deep insight of the student rights and matters pertaining to the university administration, used to speak openly about the administrative problems and other issues in the university. Days before his brutal murder, he had set up a protest camp outside the university to press the government for early resolution of the various problems in the university, especially appointment of vice chancellor. The JIT in its report clearly mentioned that scores of employees of the university had criminal record.

It was suggested in the report that strict departmental action should be taken against Registrar Sher Alam Khan, Director Administration Pir Asfandyar, Security Officer Himayatullah Afridi, Provost Fayaz Ali Shah, Chief Proctor Idress, Director Sports Farooq Khan and Assistant Registrar Humayun for their incompetence. The report also called for scrutinising record of all the employees.

On the other hand, sources in the university said that a lot of irregularities were made in admission procedure, especially in the Journalism and Mass Communication Department in the first batch. The sources said that administration of the Journalism Department had given admission to government officials without no-objection certificates (NOCs) from parent departments and also violated merit in the admission procedure. The source said that the government employees also got admission in the same department through fake documents with the connivance of the department administration.

After passage of several days of Mashal Khan murder, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government on demand of local administration appointed Dr Jahanzeb Khalil as pro-vice chancellor of the university. The sources said that the government had tasked him to strictly act on the recommendations of the JIT report. However, after his appointment, Dr Jahanzeb made a few transfers and adjustments in the administration but did not fully act on the JIT recommendations. Later, the government appointed Dr Khurshid Khan as vice chancellor of the university.

On February 7, an anti-terrorism court in Haripur jail announced its verdict in the case. The court awarded death sentence to one accused, Imran, 2-time life imprisonment (50 years) to 3 accused, Fazle Raziq, Mujeebullah and Ashfaq Khan. The ATC judge also awarded 3-time life imprisonment (75 years) to 2 accused, Mudassir Bashir and Bilal Bakhsh, and 4-year sentence to 25 accused. The court acquitted 26 of the accused in the case with observation that the prosecution had not been able to prove their involvement in any act of violence or aggression pertaining to the case.

However, the Peshawar High Court on February 27 suspended the 4-year sentence of the 25 accused and granted bail to them.