Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday afternoon issued a strongly-worded condemnation of the lynching of a university student in Mardan over allegations of blasphemy.
"I am shocked and saddened by the senseless display of mob justice that resulted in the murder of a young student, Mashal Khan, at Wali Khan University, Mardan," the premier said.
"The state will never tolerate those who take the law in their own hands," he warned.
He also ordered action against those found involved in the incident, directing police to arrest those who were responsible.
"The nation should stand united to condemn this crime and to promote tolerance and rule of law in the society," the prime minister said.
"No father should have to send his child off to be educated, with the fear of having him return in a coffin."
The prime minister's condemnation came two days after the episode, with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Imran Khan taking the lead in condemning the brutal episode a day earlier.
Several social media users had criticised the premier and other government representatives for what they said was 'silence' and 'apathy' from the ruling party.
Before the prime minister, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had condemned the murder on Twitter, saying: "Falsely accusing someone of blasphemy without verification is also blasphemy.. this is not the teaching of our Rasool Rehmat ul Almeen PBUH".
Falsely accusing someone of blasphemy without verification is also blasphemy.. this is not the teaching of our Rasool Rehmat ul Almeen PBUH— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) April 15, 2017
"Lynching of #Mashal by mob is shameful for a society believing in Prophet PBUH of love,mercy and compassion..writ of Law must b enforced".
Lynching of #Mashal by mob is shameful for a society believing in Prophet PBUH of love,mercy and compassion..writ of Law must b enforced— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) April 15, 2017
The prime minister's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, also tweeted regarding the incident soon after the premier's statement, saying: "Shocked to see Mashal Khan killing video. Vigilantism &mob justice are indicative of regressive & putrid mindset. Is that what we stand for?"
Shocked to see Mashal Khan killing video. Vigilantism &mob justice are indicative of regressive & putrid mindset. Is that what we stand for?— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) April 15, 2017
"Images of brutal killing of two brothers in Sialkot years ago still haunts & now #MashalKhan. Do we want to be known as benighted nation?" she added.
Images of brutal killing of two brothers in Sialkot years ago still haunts & now #MashalKhan. Do we want to be known as benighted nation?— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) April 15, 2017
On April 13, Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan student Mashal Khan, 23, was shot and beaten to death by a violent mob on university premises.
The mob had also wanted to burn his body before police intervened, a senior police official had said. He had been accused of blasphemy by fellow students.
Another student, Abdullah, was beaten bloody before police managed to rescue him from his attackers. An eyewitness said he was accused of belonging to the Ahmadi faith and forced to recite verses from the Holy Quran, then beaten savagely even though he repeatedly denied the accusation.
No case had been filed against the two students prior to the incident and police had not been investigating the two on blasphemy charges.
The mob instead seems to have been incited by rumours circulating among the university's student body.
Nonetheless, the university said it would investigate three students, including Mashal and Abdullah, for alleged blasphemous activities and ordered them rusticated and banned from the premises of all campuses of the university.
The notification, dated April 13, did not mention any details of the incident or a condemnation of the student's killing, even though the university's provost, Fayyaz Ali Shah, said it had been issued after the lynching.
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.
"The mobile phone record of the victim has been checked by the police but there was nothing against Islam," he told the province's lawmakers.
“Since the occurrence of the incident, I have been in contact with the inspector general of police; so far, no evidence has emerged to show that blasphemy was committed by the victim,” he said, adding that such brutality would not be tolerated.
A judicial inquiry has been ordered into the case.