The Home Department has granted permission for Sawan Masih, a Christian accused of blasphemy, to be tried in jail.
Masih was accused of using derogatory language about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in March, following which a mob torched two churches and some 150 houses belonging to Christian residents of Joseph Colony.
Superintendent of Police (Headquarters) Hassan Mushtaq Sukhera had written to Additional District and Sessions Judge Chaudhry Ghulam Murtaza for the blasphemy case to be tried in jail, owing to the threat to Masih’s life.
Keeping in view the sensitivity of the case as this is a religious matter, and the security of the prisoner, special measures need to be adopted for his security and protection, SP Sukhera wrote in the letter.
He said Masih was being kept in judicial lockup in the Camp Jail and being brought to the courtroom in an armoured car with a large police guard.
The judge passed on the request to District and Sessions Judge Nazir Ahmed Gajana, who then asked the Home Department to allow a jail trial.
At the previous hearing, a panel of four lawyers from the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, an NGO that aims to help protect Christians against persecution in Pakistan, took over Masih’s defence.
Advocate Tahir Bashir Sahotra, one of the lawyers on the panel, withdrew an application for after-arrest bail, contending that Masih would be safer in jail than on bail.
The judge had fixed May 29 for the framing of charges against Masih.
According to the FIR of the case, complainant Shahid Imran heard Sawan Masih using derogatory language about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as he was taking to his neighbour Muhammad Shafique. Imran said that he and Shafique told Masih to desist, but he did not listen. They then sought to hold him and turn him over to the police, but he fled. The FIR was registered at Badami Bagh police station under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries the death penalty.
After the FIR was registered, several Christian families had to flee their homes as a mob set fire to churches and houses in Joseph Colony. The incident was widely condemned in Pakistan and abroad and an arson case was then registered against dozens of people.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2013.