Fifty-five-year-old Qamar David, a Christian serving a life sentence in two blasphemy cases, died on Tuesday of what jailers say was a heart attack but his family suspects it was murder.
David was being kept at Central Jail, Karachi. “My husband had no disease,” his wife Tabassum told The Express Tribune. “He informed me about receiving threats from someone in jail after the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti.”
Jail Deputy Superintendent Raja Mumtaz refuted these claims. “No one killed him,” he said. “He died of a heart attack.” He was taken to Civil Hospital, Karachi where he died while being treated.
A postmortem will be held today in the presence of his family, a magistrate and the police surgeon.
Two cases of blasphemy were registered against him in the Saddar and Azizabad police stations in 2006 and one attempted murder case was registered by the Sir Syed police station. The victim’s family also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court where they challenged the life imprisonment. The attempted murder case was being heard.
David, who hailed from a town near Lahore, used to live in Lines Area and used to run a small business.
On February 25, 2010, Additional District and Sessions Judge Jangu Khan found Qamar David guilty of blasphemy.
The judge sentenced David to life imprisonment under Sections 295A and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, based on claims made by business rivals. He was accused of sending text messages which contained derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Christian human rights groups have demanded that a committee investigate the causes of the death. The Catholic Bishop of Islamabad/Rawalpindi Rufin Anthony conveyed his condolences to David’s family and said, “I am in grief, the whole Christian community has been grieving for the past few days. We haven’t recovered from the loss and this news has increased my concerns about the future of Christians in Pakistan. David was falsely accused of blasphemy. How much more blood do we still have to see to realise that the blasphemy laws need to be abolished? How much blood does the government wants to have on its hands? Another sad day for the minorities in Pakistan.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2011.