PESHAWAR, Pakistan -Eight Pakistanis involved in the mob lynching of a fellow university student over his liberal views were charged with murder and terrorism on Saturday, court officials said, as condemnation grew.
Mardan's Deputy Inspector General of Police Mohammad Alam Shinwari said the deceased man, identified as journalism student Mashal Khan, had been accused of running Facebook pages "which allegedly published blasphemous content".
However, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on Saturday told the KP assembly that no evidence had been found to suggest that Mashal Khan had committed blasphemy.
Mashal Khan - who was studying at Abdul Wali Khan University - was kicked, stripped and shot to death by a large mob in the conservative northwestern town of Mardan on Thursday.
While there was no blasphemous content posted prior to last week's attack, he said, investigating officers had noticed a surge in postings after it. Police have sought the Federal Investigation Agency's help in investigating the individuals behind the inciting content posted on social media, he added.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which are embedded in Sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, carry the death penalty, and yet there is no provision to punish a false accuser or a false witness of blasphemy.
Pakistan police announced Monday they had arrested 22 people after the lynching of a university student accused of blasphemy, but observers said there was little hope authorities would secure convictions.
"Mashal Khan murder exposed that society is terrorised by radical forces and it took two days to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to condemn the murder while no religious party has condemn the killing".
"Let it be known to the perpetrators of this act that the state shall not tolerate citizens taking the law into their own hands", Sharif said. At least 65 people have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990.
About 1,000 people, mostly relatives, friends and co-villagers attended his funeral prayer at the main Eidgah in the village. They were handed over to the police on physical remand for one day.
The IGP Mehsud appreciated the performance of the police, and said that the investigation is moving in the right direction, the statement read.
"So my message to everyone is, please know your religion, culture, values which have always taught us to be patient and preach peace". A technician who was asked to do so in the cleric's place was confronted by several people afterwards.