Provincial police is either ignorant or dismissive of Lahore High Court’s instructions regarding the investigation of blasphemy cases, piling misery on those accused of the offence.
A division bench of the Lahore High Court comprising Justice Ali Nawaz Chawhan and Justice Rustam Ali Malik, while deciding a murder reference in offences under section 295-A and 295-C in August 2002, directed the inspector-general of police (IGP) Lahore “to ensure that whenever [a blasphemy] case is registered, it be entrusted for purposes of investigation to a team of at least two gazette investigating officers, preferably those conversant with Islamic jurisprudence.”
In the event that the officers are not conversant with Islamic law, “a scholar of known reputation and integrity may be added to the team … [to] investigate whether a [blasphemy] offence is committed or not,” the ruling added.
The ruling conceded that cases of blasphemy are on the rise and at times, “elements of mischief have also been observed to be involved.”
Since the passing of this ruling, however, not a single case has been investigated by a panel of two gazette officers and one religious scholar, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The cases are usually investigated by assistant sub-inspectors, or in the event of a high-profile case, the inspector in charge of investigation.
Neither the deputy superintendent police (DSP) nor an SP get involved in such cases owing to their sensitivity, sources say.
Guilty until proven innocent
Shahid Butt, a blasphemy accused presently on bail, told The Express Tribune that despite his struggle, the SP concerned refuses to be involved in the investigation.
Inspector Aftab Shah of Batapur police station had been investigating into his case, he added.
Because of incompetent investigators, I spent five months in prison, said Butt, adding that he was released when his case was taken up by the court.
LHC judgment ‘not mandatory’
Superintendent of Police (Investigation) Capt (r) Liaqat Ali Malik told The Express Tribune that all cases of blasphemy are investigated by an SP.
An inspector, or any official below this rank, does not have the authority to investigate such cases according to law, he said.
When asked about the LHC judgment which made two SPs mandatory to investigate blasphemy cases, Malik said that they follow the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.
Any judgment besides those was not binding upon them, he added. Advocate Muhammad Anis Saadi, however, told The Express Tribune that the LHC judgment was binding upon the police officers.
If the LHC had issued instructions to the IGP in this regard, the IGP must have conveyed the message to all SPs concerned to ensure its implementation, he added.
An SP, on condition of anonymity, said that no such instructions had been received from the IGP office.
He added that most SPs are ignorant of the issue and adopt the conventional methods in investigating blasphemy cases.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2011.
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