A complainant has challenged the right of an ‘insane’ man accused of blasphemy to engage counsel to defend him before the Lahore High Court in his petition for cancelling the FIR lodged against him.
Irfan Rafique has been in jail since March 30 after Shadbagh police registered an FIR against him under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Complainant Muhammad Qasim has filed an application before the court of Justice Mahmood Maqbool Bajwa. The court has issued a notice for June 15 to the accused for his reply. The complainant submitted that Rafique cannot engage a lawyer or defend himself before the court on account of the suggestion that he was insane.
The complainant’s lawyer Aziz Malik told The Express Tribune that Rafique had no right to file an application before the LHC for the cancellation of the FIR against him. He said even the right to engage a lawyer was closed to him after the plea in the trial court that he was insane. According to law, Malik added, an insane person should be represented by a relative.
Qasim had refused to accept that Rafique was insane when the trial court was adjudicating the matter of Rafique’s sanity. The court has ordered a medical report which would reach the court by June 1.
Malik expressed satisfaction with the fact that no counsel had appeared before the court for the accused on account of pressure mounted by ‘defenders of the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) honour’. On May 18, a number of clerics had attacked Rafique’s lawyer at Sessions Court and had taken an undertaking from him that he would not appear before the court to defend Rafique. They had told him that defending a “blasphemer” was not permitted in Islam.
Malik and a number of supporters of the complainant appeared before the court on Thursday to respond to an application by the accused for cancellation of the FIR against him. In his application Rafique submitted that being insane, he could not be tried under the charges. He also produced some receipts of payment to a psychiatrist for his treatment. He said the FIR against him was lodged with ulterior motives and that he had nothing to do with the case.
Rafique produced documents in court showing that he had been treated at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH). 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, in fact, he had been brought there by his father. According to a document, Dr Khalid Mahmood Mughal of PIMH on May 10, 2010, recommended that Rafique get psychiatric treatment. Qasim, a resident of Shadbagh, lodged an FIR against Rafique, a resident of Ittehad Colony, Iqbal Town, under Section 295 -C of the PPC on March 30.
Qasim said that he had received a text message on March 28 which contained derogatory language about the Holy Prophet (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.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2011.