LAHORE: Justice Khalid Mehmood of the Lahore High Court refused to pass judgement on Monday after hearing arguments on the bail petition of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy and referred the petition to the chief justice for fixing it before another judge.
Investigating Officer SP Chaudhry Hanif told The Express Tribune that Ghazala Khan had been accused of conspiring with Zafar Bhatti, the main accused in the case, to send blasphemous text messages and make phone calls from a SIM registered under Khan’s name. SP Hanif said it appeared that Bhatti had sent all the texts and made all the phone calls, but the fact that the SIM was registered in Khan’s name pointed towards her connivance. He said phone records showed that they had been in touch during the period.
In her petition, Khan had claimed that she had found out about the FIR registered against her under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 25-C of the Telegraph Act at the Rawalpindi’s New Town police station on the complaint of Ahle Sunnat Pakistan Secretary Ibrar Ahmed, on November 11, 2012, when police raided her house and arrested her.
In her bail petition filed on November, 19, 2012, she submitted that she had a property dispute with some relatives who had issued death threats to her as well. Khan said she had registered complaints against them with the police as well. She said Bhatti had stolen her national identity card to register a SIM in her name and had sent the blasphemous texts and made offensive phone calls.
Khan said she was innocent in the matter and was being victimised on account of her religion.
On Monday, Justice Mehmood tried to persuade the complainant, Ahmed, to forgive Khan as the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had forgiven many people as well. Khan however said asking for forgiveness indicated guilt in the matter. “As I am not guilty I do not need anyone’s forgiveness. I want the judge to pass a decision on merit,” she said.
However, Justice Mehmood referred the matter to the chief justice to fix it before another judge.
Justice Mehmood said the matter should be referred to Justice Muhammad Anwarul Haq as the case had been issued to him earlier. The counsel for the accused, Advocate Robinson, said Justice Mehmood had heard the arguments in the case and summoned police records over a period of four months. Robinson said Justice Mehmood had also sought the assistance of the advocate general and an assistant attorney general in the matter.
Justice Mehmood had also contacted the Punjab Forensic Science Academy that had said they could not assess the sound in the phone calls recorded. He said it had been four months since they had petitioned for bail and the judge had avoided passing judgement on the matter. Cases should be decided on merit regardless of the petitioner’s religion, he said.
Second counsel for the accused, Iffat Maryam, said if courts denied people justice, where else could they turn to? She said the judge had washed his hands of the case due to pressure from the complainant and his colleagues from Ahle Sunnat Pakistan. Khan had been out on interim bail for four months and was being victimised, she said. “Once you accuse someone of blasphemy, they’re as good as dead,” she said.
The complainant, Ahmed, said it had become tempting for non-Muslims to commit blasphemy, air the matter in the media and seek asylum in other countries. He said Khan and Bhatti’s guilt had been proved in the police investigation and they should be dealt with accordingly.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2013.