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Pakistan: Professor sentenced to death for ’blasphemy’


Sunday 22 December 2019, by siawi3


Junaid Hafeez: Academic sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan

21 December 2019

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Security was tightened around the jail where Junaid Hafeez, not pictured, was being sentenced

A university lecturer in Pakistan has been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Junaid Hafeez, 33, was arrested in March 2013 and accused of posting derogatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad on social media.

Allegations of blasphemy are taken very seriously in Pakistan, and even an accusation is often enough to make someone a target for hardliners.

Mr Hafeez’s first lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was shot dead in 2014 after agreeing to take on the case.

The lecturer has also spent years in solitary confinement, after repeated attacks by other prisoners.

What are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws?
Pakistan ’blasphemy lawyer’ murdered
Dozens arrested after Pakistan blasphemy riots

The sentence was delivered by a court in the Central Jail in Multan, where Mr Hafeez was being held.

Mr Hafeez had studied a Master’s degree in the US on a Fulbright Scholarship, specialising in American literature, photography and theatre.

After returning to Pakistan he took up a lecturer position at Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) in Multan, where he worked until his arrest.
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Prosecution lawyers passed out sweets in celebration after the verdict was read out

Mr Hafeez’s current counsel said the verdict was “most unfortunate”, and told AFP news agency that they would appeal against the decision.

Prosecution lawyers, meanwhile, distributed sweets to their colleagues, who chanted “Allahu akbar” and “death to blasphemers”.

Amnesty International said the verdict was “a gross miscarriage of justice” and described it as “extremely disappointing and surprising”.
What are Pakistan’s blasphemy laws?

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws carry strict sentences, including death, for anyone who insults Islam.

The offences relating to religion were first codified by India’s British rulers in 1860, and were expanded in 1927. Pakistan inherited these laws when it came into existence after the partition of India in 1947.

These early laws made it a crime to disturb a religious assembly, trespass on burial grounds, insult religious beliefs or to intentionally destroy or defile a place or an object of worship.

Under these laws, the maximum punishment ranged from one to 10 years in jail.

But between 1980 and 1986, a number of clauses were added by the military government of General Zia-ul Haq.

Media captionAsia Bibi’s escape from Pakistan death row

Gen Haq wanted to “Islamicise” them and also legally to separate the Ahmadi community, declared non-Muslim in 1973, from the main body of Pakistan’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.

The new clauses made it illegal to make derogatory remarks against Islamic personages, introduced life sentences for “wilful” desecration of the Koran, and later, introduced the death penalty or life imprisonment for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.

About 40 people are currently on death row for blasphemy - although so far, no executions for blasphemy have been carried out.

The blasphemy laws have been under the spotlight internationally after Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who spent eight years on death row, was freed from prison last year, following a Supreme Court decision which overturned her conviction.

Her release sparked riots, and she had to seek safety in another country.


Pakistani Professor Junaid Hafeez Receives Death Penalty for Supposed Blasphemy

By Hemant Mehta

December 22, 2019

After several years of solitary confinement, 33-year-old Junaid Hafeez has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for the fictional crime of blasphemy.

Hafeez used to teach English at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan. He was a popular professor, but his progressive views didnt go over well with Islamic groups and a student who soon accused him of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. He was quickly arrested on charges that he used a pseudonym to talk smack about Muhammads wives online.

His lawyers havent fared well either. One was shot dead even after threats were made against him in the courtroom. (Those who made the threats were not charged with any crimes.)

So its no wonder that Hafeezs attempts at justice have failed.

The sentence was delivered by a court in the Central Jail in Multan, where Mr Hafeez was being held.

Prosecution lawyers, meanwhile, distributed sweets to their colleagues, who chanted Allahu akbar and death to blasphemers.

Amnesty International said the verdict was a gross miscarriage of justice and described it as extremely disappointing and surprising.

His current lawyer says the ruling will be appealed, but theres little chance that this verdict will be overturned.

Asad Jamal, Hafeezs lawyer, told Reuters news agency that he would appeal against the ruling in a higher court.

There cant be a fair trial in blasphemy cases in Pakistan, Jamal said. We have a spineless system. No one can stand up to a blasphemy charge.

The blasphemy law itself is the problem. To suggest that criticism of religion is a crime worthy of any punishment says more about the thin skin of government officials, and the weakness of their beliefs, than anything about the supposed culprits. The law has become nothing more than a weapon for revenge against your enemies; accuse them of blasphemy and theres no possible defense.

If hes killed, Hafeez would be the first person executed in Pakistan for blasphemy. But there are approximately 40 others sitting on death row for the same reason. None of them deserve to be there.



PAKISTAN: Call to release a lecturer facing Blasphemy charges for five years without trial

International Human Rights Council HK a lanc cette ptition adresse Mr. Imran Khan (Prime Minister of Pakistan) et

PAKISTAN: Call to release a lecturer Junaid Hafeez facing Blasphemy charges for five years without trial

ISSUES: Blasphemy, religious intolerance, torture, arbitrary detention, failed justice system,

The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC-HK) appeal to the government of Pakistan to immediately release Mr. Junaid Hafeez who is languishing in Multan, Punjab, prison for more than five years on the baseless charges of blasphemy. His case is a typical example of miscarriage of justice where lawyers community and in charge judge have very biased opinion about the case of Blasphemy and often presiding judge takes the side of the fundamentalists.

According to the information received from International Human Rights Council Mr. Junaid Hafeez has been denied of fair trial since his arrest from March 2013. He bid farewell to studying medicine at the King Edward Medical College after his first year of MBBS and entered Bahauddin Zakaria University (BZU) to pursue a degree in English literature. Hafeez was one of five Pakistani students to be selected under the Fulbright Scholarship Programme to complete their Masters from the United States. He proceeded to Jackson State University, where he studied American literature, photography and theatre. Mr. Hafeez later came back to serve his country and was appointed as a lecturer of English at Bahauddin Zakaria University, Multan, Punjab. (Dawn)

Hafeez, was arrested after a criminal case was registered accusing him of blasphemy. The charge is based on alleged comments posted on Facebook, which Hafeez denies. He has been in solitary confinement since his arrest.

Given the sensitive nature of the crime, Hafeezs trial was conducted inside the prison. The group of agitating lawyers have threatened the presiding judge that if Hafeez is not awarded death sentence the judge himself will not be speared.

The police and prosecution have never found any evidence that Mr. Hafeez has ever committed blasphemy in his writing or lectures. One of the witnesses later produced by the prosecution to testify against Junaid reiterated the same accusations that were levelled at them back in BZU. Hafeez Junaids lawyer brought his books to court and asked the witness to pinpoint the blasphemous content to the judge. The prime witness says he could neither read nor understand English. When the Multan police registered a case against Junaid; they did so based on some printouts of offensive material attributed to Junaid, which the defence attorney believes was doctored. Junaid was arrested from Lahore and brought back to Multan.

It is appalling for IHRC-HK that during the trials a group of lawyers, subscribing to fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, first attacked and threatened the defending lawyer to recuse himself from defending the case otherwise he will be killed.

Another lawyer, Rashid Rehman, a prominent human rights defender, was attacked and murdered inside his office . Before his killing he was threatened before the judge that if defending lawyer comes again for defending the accused, he will be killed. The judge did not stop group of lawyers he didnt even took any action against them, instead he was reported to be smiling. Mr. Rashid Rehman, was murdered on May 7, 2014.

Later human rights activists arranged a third lawyer to defend the lecturer, who has to travel on every hearing about 200 kilometers from Lahore to Multan and often he faces hindrances at the trial court for example the prosecutor is absent or judge is not available.

IHRC-HK is very disappointed by the attitude of the judiciary which goes out its way to appease the religious militants. The family members of the victim have written letters to the higher judiciary requesting them to provide justice to him; however, judiciary remained afraid of the religious groups and did not interfere in the matter.

The IHRC-HK, therefore, appeal you to take immediate action into the case of Mr. Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer of Bahauddin Zakaria University, Multan, who is languishing in a prison for more than five years where the wardens and prisoners all are threatening him with dire consequences. Mr. Hafeez must be secured as it is often the norm Pakistani prisons prisoners are killed inside jail premises to avoid the legal procedures and also to satisfy the religious groups.

I also appeal the authorities and chief justice of Pakistan to release Hafeez immediately and to protect his life. Particularly since the volatile situation of law and order in the country following the acquittal of Asia Bibi, it becomes even more pertinent to provide security to him.

I hope you will immediately release him and prosecute all of those who have accused him of baseless charges of Blasphemy.

Thank You.

Please sent your letters to

1.Mohammad Usman Buzdar
Chief Minister
Government of Punjab
Province Chief Minister
Secretariat 5-Club Road
GOR-I, Lahore, Punjab
Fax: +92 42 99205065
Email: cmcomplaintcell

2.Justice Saqib Nisar,
Chief Justice of Pakistan
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Constitution Avenue, Islamabad
Fax: + 92 51 9213452
E-mail: mail

3.Arif Alvi
President of Pakistan
Presidents Secretariat

Fax: +92 51 9207458
Email: publicmail

4.Imran Khan

Prime Minister
Prime Minister House
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
E-mail: pspm,


5.Shireen Mazari

Federal Minister for Human Rights
Ministry of Human Rights
State Life Building No. 5, Blue Area,
Jinnah Avenue, China Chowk, Islamabad
Fax: +92 51 9204108
Email: contact

6.Mr. Ahmed Shaheed

Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

E-mail: freedomofreligion urgent-action