LAHORE: A blasphemy convict, said to be mentally challenged, died in Lahore Camp Jail after what police said was a brief ailment.
Shaukat Ali, 35, was imprisoned in 2007 under blasphemy charges. His family rejected the claims of jail and police authorities and said the death may have been caused by some other reason.
There have been several incidents in jails where those accused of blasphemy have been killed by inmates.
Hameed Ahmed, father of the deceased, told The Express Tribune that they had no information about his poor health and were shocked by the news of his son’s death. He said it is premature to say anything about the death but that the family was sure that he was not unwell.
Camp Jail Superintendent Gulzar Butt told The Express Tribune that on Sunday morning, Shaukat felt pain in the abdomen and started vomiting. He was quickly shifted to Services Hospital where he breathed his last, Butt said, rejecting any possibility of a jail official or inmate’s involvement in his death.
Police official at Services Police post said Ali was a gastro patient and had been moved to a hospital earlier in the day.
Inspector Rana Zulfiqar of Shadman police station claimed that Shaukat was mentally challenged. He said that the inmates were aware of his condition but the illness had not been proven. Shaukat had murdered his inmate during a brawl, which also included three other people and was booked under Pakistan Penal Code Section 302, the inspector said.
Shaukat’s brother Pervez told The Express Tribune that all these years, the family had not known about his brother. “My mother died three years back because of his absence,” he said. Pervez said the police contacted them 15 days earlier and told them that Ali was in prison. “If he was not sick then how did he become so ill that he died in 15 days?” Pervez said.
Hameed said his son became mentally ill around 20 years ago. After being told that Shaukat was in prison, the family started collecting money to meet him in jail. “We did not have enough money to come to Lahore,” Hameed said, questioning why his son was not kept in a mental hospital.
He said that jail authorities had also advised him not to go for an autopsy, adding that he did not want to get into legal complications.
Butt denied any accusation of torture and said the convict died of natural causes. He had been ill for a while, which is why he was moved to a hospital where he died. The body has been sent for an autopsy, which will clear all doubts, Butt said.
Station House Officer (SHO) of Shadman police station Rana Zulfiqar said that he was kept in the prison because his mental condition was yet not proven by any doctor.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2011.