A mass communication student of a university in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was tortured and shot dead on Thursday by a mob for allegedly publishing blasphemous content online.

Mashal Khan and his friend Abdullah were attacked in the premises of the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan where at least 25 policemen were present. Abdullah is seriously injured.

Not only did a lynch mob beat to a pulp and then shoot dead a 23-year-old journalism student in Pakistan, it then continued to pound the boy’s lifeless body with sticks – all of this in the clear light of day, Pakistan media reported today.

Mashal Khan was stripped naked and beaten by an angry mob of around 10 students shouting “Allahu Akbar” on Thursday, according to sources. He was beaten so brutally that his skull eventually caved in, according to video footage obtained by the media outlet.

In a graphic video of the attack doing the rounds online, the attackers can be seen stoning and beating Mashal with planks even as his body lies lifelessly on the ground, stripped naked from the waist down.

Blasphemy is an extremely serious accusation in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and at least 65 people have been murdered over such allegations since 1990. Insulting the Prophet Muhammad is punished as a capital crime, and hundreds are currently on death row for allegedly doing so.

Just last month, the country’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, issued an order for the removal of blasphemous content online, saying that anyone who posts such content should face “strict punishment under the law.”

Police said 59 people were arrested from the university for their suspected involvement in the lynching. The university has been shut temporarily.

Policeman inspect a room of Mashal Khan. —AFP

Policeman inspect a room of Mashal Khan. —AFP

“He was brilliant and inquisitive, always complaining about the political system of the country, but I never heard him saying anything controversial against the religion,” a teacher of Mashal’s told sources.

In recent months, Pakistan’s government has been vocal about the issue, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issuing an order last month for removal of blasphemous content online and saying anyone who posted such content should face “strict punishment under the law”.

At least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

Mardan’s Deputy Inspector General Alam Shinwari said the students were accused of running Facebook pages that published “blasphemous” content. “The students were beaten and tortured by large group of students, and Mashal appears to have succumbed to a gunshot wound,” he said.

Media reports quoted unidentified students claiming that leaders of the university’s student bodies were among the attackers and they claimed Khan was promoting the Ahmadiyya ideas. Ahmadis are considered non-Muslims by many mainstream Muslim groups.