A lawyer defending a man accused of blasphemy was attacked at the sessions court on Wednesday and forced to promise that he would no longer represent his client, who is said to be mentally challenged, witnesses told The Express Tribune.
The witnesses said that the lawyer had turned up for a bail hearing in the case on Wednesday when a group of men who had been protesting outside charged at him. The scared lawyer took shelter in a room for court staff, but the protestors managed to get to him and extract a promise that he would no longer represent the accused.
“We told him that he should not risk the wrath of Allah by representing the blasphemer so he should withdraw his letter of attorney,” said Muhammad Qasim, the complainant in the case and one of the protesters. “He promised to remove himself from the case so we let him go.”
Earlier, the clerics had been standing outside the courtroom chanting slogans and holding banners with messages condemning blasphemy, such as ‘Tohin-i-Risalat ki saza, Sir tun say juda’ (The punishment for blasphemy is decapitation). They included Qari Irshad Ahmed Chishti, khateeb of Jamia Masjid Muhammadia Hanfia, and Haji Muhammad Shafiq, member of the Masjid Ya Rasul Allah Gulshan-i-Ravi committee.
The lawyer had sought a three-week adjournment in the case to allow time for doctors to prepare a report on his client’s mental fitness or otherwise. However, the court adjourned till June 2, observing that the report would be ready by June 1. Qasim, a resident of Shadbagh, lodged a FIR against Irfan Rafique, a resident of Ittehad Colony, Iqbal Town, under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code on March 30.
Qasim said in the FIR that he had received a text message on his mobile phone on March 28 which contained derogatory language about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He said that he and three others who had seen the text Mirza Muhammad Sheharyar, Muhammad Khalil and Naveed Butt – investigated and discovered that the number from which the text message was received was in Rafique’s use.
Advocate Asghar Mehmood Sheikh, the senior associate of the lawyer who was attacked, filed a post-arrest bail in an additional district and sessions judge’s court contending that Rafique was mentally deficient. The defence asked the court to direct the jail authorities to get his mental health examined. The judge directed the superintendent of Camp Jail to get him examined and submit a report to the court.
Advocate Sheikh had produced documents in court showing that Rafique had been treated at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health. According to the reports, when doctors asked Rafique who had brought him to the mental health facility, he responded that his friend had come with him, when he had been taken there by his father. According to a document submitted by the defence, Dr Khalid Mahmood Mughal of PIMH on May 10, 2010, recommended that Rafique get psychiatric treatment.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2011.
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