ISLAMABAD: The blasphemy case wherein a Christian couple is languishing in Punjab jails for the last six years took an interesting turn when the Gojra police submitted the missing receipt regarding the purchase of the SIM, through which the “offence” was committed.
"The receipt regarding the purchase of SIM in question as well as 94 receipts of the mobile operator company’s franchise in Gojra were in fact kept in Maal Khana, Gojra being case property of this case," says a report submitted by the Toba Tek Singh sessions judge in the Lahore High Court.
Shafqat Maseeh, watchman of Gojra’s Saint Cathedral School, and his wife, Shagufta Maseeh, were arrested on the charges of sending blasphemous text messages to the complainants – shopkeeper Malik Mohammad Hussain and former Gojra Tehsil Bar president Anwar Mansoor Goraya.
On April 4, 2014, Toba Tek Singh additional district and sessions judge had awarded them capital punishment. They were convicted under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) read with Section 34 of the PPC. They were also directed to pay a fine of Rs100,000 each.
The Christian couple is on death row.
A Lahore High Court division bench, headed by Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, took up the appeals filed by the convicts on February 20. Advocate Saiful Malook, who had pleaded the case of Aasia Bibi, is representing the couple.
The high court had ordered the Toba Tek Singh sessions judge to hold an inquiry and furnish the document before it within a month. The court also asked the judge to fix responsibility on delinquent officials if the documents had been misplaced.
Aasia Bibi has left Pakistan: FO sources
In reply to the LHC order, Toba Tek Singh sessions judge had deputed additional sessions judge Asif Ali Rana to conduct an inquiry.
According to the inquiry report, SHO and Muharar of Gojra city were summoned along with the relevant record. The police informed that receipt of the SIM in question was deposited in the maal khana.
The SHO was directed to produce the receipt regarding purchase of SIM. A police official, Muhammad Azeem, submitted a sealed parcel which contained the receipt.
However, talking to The Express Tribune, Malook wonders that why the SIM was found in police custody. “It should have been available in the judicial record,” he added.
Malook said, “There are several judgments wherein it is held that if the record is not obtained through safe/proper custody, the evidence would lose its worth.”
In the blasphemy case, the complaint was filed by Muhammad Hussain — a resident of Gojra. According to Hussain, he had received a text message containing “blasphemous remarks” on July 18, 2013, when he was offering prayers in a mosque. He showed the SMS to his friends — Muhammad Shabbir and Khalid Maqsood.
Later, he approached his counsel for legal proceedings on the basis of the said text message. While he was at the office of his counsel, he received five more text messages.
When the counsel tried to contact the said number, he (the lawyer) also received three to four SMS on his mobile phone. Meanwhile, the police also claimed that both the convicts had confessed to committing blasphemy.
After carrying out the investigation, the police submitted a report under Section 173 of CrPC, stating that the couple had been involved in the commission of an offence and would face trial.
On April 4, 2014, Shagufta and Shafqat were convicted and awarded death sentence. Five years ago, the couple had challenged the trial court’s order on several grounds. They contended in their appeal 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 stated.
The hearing of the case will resume as soon as the LHC starts functioning properly.
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