LAHORE (ENNS) The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is dismayed by the verdict handed down to academic Junaid Hafeez by the Multan district and sessions court on charges of blasphemy.
HRCP believes that the blasphemy laws are heavily misused. This is compounded by a trial process ridden by delays and pressures at the level of the lower judiciary.
The offence itself is already associated with vigilantism and entrenched impunity– underscored by the 2014 murder of Mr Hafeez’s lawyer, Rashid Rehman. The resulting pressure on lower courts becomes apparent when most such verdicts are overturned by the High Court or Supreme Court.
In five years, at least eight judges have heard Mr Hafeez’s case, making a fair trial virtually impossible. Meanwhile, he has undergone six years’ imprisonment in solitary confinement.
Aasia Bibi, who was charged similarly, was acquitted after eight years’ incarceration. There are grave implications here for access to justice in such cases.
HRCP reposes its faith in the higher judiciary and hopes that the verdict will be overturned in appeal.