ZAIDA, Pakistan – Even in his ancestral village here in northwestern Pakistan, where 23-year-old Mashal Khan was the pride of the community, the pointed finger of blasphemy made him an instant pariah.
As word reached Zaida earlier this month that Khan, a journalism student at a university in nearby Mardan city, had been fatally beaten and shot by an enraged student mob for supposedly blaspheming against Islam, neighbors shrank from his family in suspicion, and the local cleric refused to lead a funeral prayer.
It wasn’t until several days later, after a more complex story emerged implicating university officials and radical Muslim students in falsely accusing Khan, and police declared he had done nothing to insult his faith, that the villagers dared to express grief and organize a funeral.
“I lost my son, my friend and my light. It shattered my world,” said his father, Iqbal Khan Iqbal, a social worker and poet …