Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, but critics say it is being used to muzzle government critics.
An outspoken Pakistani student killed by a lynch mob was falsely accused of blasphemy, according to an official report that added his murder was organised by faculty members and rival students.
Mashal Khan, 23, was stripped, beaten and shot before being thrown from the second floor of his hostel at the Abdul Wali Khan University in northwest Mardan in April.
The killing led to a national outcry after a video of it went viral.
The country’s top court ordered the formation of a joint investigation team comprising police and intelligence agencies, which is set to submit its findings this week.
“No direct or indirect evidence supporting blasphemy allegations against Mashal Khan (or his friends) Abdullah and Zubair was received,” the 308-page report, a copy of which was seen by AFP news agency, said.
The investigation says that the killing was instigated by members of Khan’s own secular Pakhtun Students Federation, who felt threatened by his growing prominence as a critic of rising fees and alleged corruption at the university, as well as the institution’s staff.
Mashal’s father, Muhammad Iqbal, told reporters on Monday that the findings had vindicated his son.
“This proves my son was not a blasphemer,” he said, calling for the suspects to be tried by a military court.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive charge in conservative Muslim Pakistan, and can carry the death penalty. Even unproven allegations can cause mob lynchings and violence.
Last month a 10-year-old boy was killed and five others were wounded when a mob attacked a police station in an attempt to lynch a Hindu man charged with blasphemy for allegedly posting an incendiary image on social media.
Weeks earlier a mob attacked a mentally ill man claiming to be a prophet at his local mosque. He was later saved by police.
Currently, about 40 people are on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy in Pakistan, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Right-wing vigilantes and mobs have increasingly taken the law into their own hands, killing at least 69 people over alleged blasphemy since 1990.