KARACHI: Only a madman would actively court arrest for blasphemy in Pakistan but that appears to be the reason why a 45-year-old man sent out at least two dozen such text messages to unknown numbers. His motive: an unpaid bill.
Only one recipient reacted to the message. A former businessman, Bashir Leghari, went to his Surjani Town police station and registered a case. The only problem was that he didn’t know who had sent the message in the first place.
The Surjani police enlisted the help of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee to track down the sender. They worked from December 16 when the FIR was filed and weeks later landed at the doorstep of a man named Zafar who lives in Baloch Colony, Mehmoodabad and works in the printing business. The CPLC’s Khalid Noor said that they tracked his location but it took time as his phone had been switched off for a while. He was arrested on Sunday evening.
Investigating officer SI Jamal Khan told The Express Tribune that the card was registered in Zafar’s name and he admitted he sent the messages. But what stumped the police was his bizarre motive.
Zafar told the police that a woman who identified herself as Yamna came to him and asked him to print a book which contained the blasphemous material. But when he asked her to pay the bill of Rs45,000, she refused and threatened to have him killed.
A desperate Zafar thought that if he sent out the blasphemous messages, he would be arrested and thus the police would also find her and she would be punished too. He felt that either he would get his money back or he would be killed, which would end his financial worries anyway.
As Zafar’s arrest was fresh Sunday evening there were several unanswered questions such as if he knew of the blasphemous content before he printed it, where exactly his business is located and how many copies of the material he prepared.
As the arrest was in Mehmoodabad, it was taking the police some time to get a hold of the man in Surjani who filed the case in the first place in mid-December.
For now Zafar has been charged under sections 295-C, 298-A and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carry the death penalty or life imprisonment. He is likely to be presented in court on Monday.
In 2006, a similar case was recorded in Azizabad over text messages.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2012.