Aasia's lawyer will now defend death-row couple

Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Masih were awarded death sentence under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code


Hasnaat Malik May 11, 2019
Saiful Malook speaks to journalists during a press conference in the Hague. PHOTO:AFP

ISLAMABAD: The lawyer, who successfully pleaded the case of Aasia Bibi, will plead the case of a Christian couple, now on death row for committing blasphemy.

Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Masih were awarded death sentence under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) read with Section 34 of the PPC by the additional sessions judge of Toba Tek Singh on April 4, 2014.

They were also directed to pay Rs100,000 fine each and in case of default, they would further undergo six months' imprisonment.

Their appeal is pending in the Lahore High Court (LHC) and a hearing is likely to be fixed soon.

Saiful Malook advocate confirmed to The Express Tribune that he had submitted his Vakalatnama in the LHC to plead their case, saying that he had already met with Kausar in Multan jail.

Malook – who was offered citizenship by EU countries but returned to Pakistan to play his role in human rights matters – said Kausar is lodged in the same death cell, where Bibi was imprisoned before her acquittal in the blasphemy case by the Supreme Court late last year.

The lawyer played down threats to his security. He said that he was working for human causes; therefore, he was not worried about his security.

Aasia Bibi’s lawyer, who left country after death threats, returning to Pakistan

Case history

The complainant in the case against the couple is Muhammad Hussain, a resident of Gojra. On July 18, 2013, when he was offering prayers at a mosque, he received an SMS, containing blasphemous remarks. He showed the SMS to his friends – Muhammad Shabbir and Khalid Maqsood.

Thereafter, he approached his counsel for legal proceedings on the basis of the said SMS. While sitting in the office of the council, he received five more SMS. When the counsel tried to contact the number, he (lawyer) also received three to four SMS on his mobile phone.

The police claimed that both the convicts confessed to committing blasphemy. After the investigation, police submitted the report under Section 173 CrPC, declaring that the couple were involved in the commission of an offence and would face trial.

On the conclusion of the trial, the couple, on April 4, 2014, were convicted and awarded death sentence.

The couple had challenged the trial court's order on many grounds five years ago. Their appeal contends that the witnesses produced by the prosecution during the trial were related to the complainant and were 'inimical' towards them. So their statements required independent corroboration, which is lacking in this case," the appeal said.

Aasia Bibi needs German passport to leave Pakistan: lawyer

Motive

The convicts also claimed that about eight to nine months prior to the case, a minor quarrel took place between their children and of the neighbours', who developed a grudge against them.

Kausar was working at the Bishop Compound and the copy of her national identity card was available in the record of the Bishop Compound, where the neighbour was also working.

He succeeded in obtaining the copy of her NIC and purchased the alleged SIM in her name and later misused that SIM and forwarded the alleged blasphemous SMS to the complainant, who was in collusion with their neighbour. The prosecution; however, claimed that the alleged SIM was purchased by Kausar along with her husband.

The convicts denied the charge, saying that the husband, Shafqat Masih, is a disabled person since long and could not move or walk.

Likewise, they contended that there was no evidence that they purchased the SIM from a franchise, adding that the convicts were illiterate persons and could not write the alleged SMS, which was written in English alphabets.

The appeal also contended that Section 196 CrPC has not been followed as the FIR was lodged by a private person, who was not the competent authority nor duly authorised by the central or provincial governments. It is also stated that the evidence produced by the prosecution is "discrepant, shaky and not worth reliance".

Likewise, the appeal states that the trial court did not appreciate the defence version in its true prospective, which resulted in grave miscarriage of justice. "The learned judge has based his judgment on surmises and conjectures instead of solid evidence," it adds.

After the passage of five years, the appeal was fixed before the LHC division bench, led by Justice Aalia Neelum, on February 7, but it was left over. It is learned that the matter will be relisted soon.

COMMENTS

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

E-Publications

Most Read