Zafar Bhatti’s wife describes joy at being able to see her jailed husband, prays for his release
by Jibran Khan
Initially reported dead, he is alive and well; relatives continue their legal battle for his release. However, plots and personal interests emerge of would-be pro human rights organizations. The family asks for "concrete support."

Rawalpindi (AsiaNews) - "It was a great joy to see my husband alive, we met him and he sat in front of us ... it was deeply emotional",  Nawab Bibi tells AsiaNews.  She is the wife of the Rev. Zafar Bhatti, left for dead on September 25 last, in an extra-judicial murder in the prison of Adyala. In reality, the Christian leader, on trial for an (alleged) case of blasphemy, is alive and well.  Rumor had him murdered in his cell following a police phone call and the authorities refusal to allow the family identify his corpse.  Now his relatives are concentrating on their legal battle for his release: "We pray constantly for his release - reports the woman - we want him home".

On  September 30, the family of Zafar Bhatti and Church of Rawalpindi met the man in prison; the target of the attack was his cellmate, the British Muhammad Asghar (Ahmadi faith) also accused of blasphemy. Asghar and Bhatti shared the same cell at level 4 prison Adyala; a prison guard, who says he acted on "divine inspiration", seriously wounded him.

The phone call announcing the death of her husband, Nawab said, was "devastating"; The woman immediately called her sister in law Naureen, telling her what had happened. "We ran to the prison - she explains - but we were not allowed to enter, nor to meet him. We did not receive any information. Later, the police began to deny that he had been killed".

Other prisoners have confirmed the rumors of Bhatti's death, at the hand of a police officer, a member of the anti-terrorism squad. The man in question is Muhammad Yousaf, former head of surveillance for Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard who killed, the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer in January 2011 for his opposition to the blasphemy laws, which he dubbed the "black laws".

According to police, on September 25 last Yousaf, opened fire against Muhammad Asghar, convicted of blasphemy under Article 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, in the prison cell he was being held in. The prison officers arrested the policeman, who said he was acting on a "divine vision" against an infidel.

Now that the Christian leader is confirmed alive, the legal battle to secure his release begins. However, Nawab Bibi says, "we are confused, because each time they tells us that there is a new lawyer, and some have even claimed to support us economically, but it is not true because we are forced to rely on our own means and on the 'help of a local activist. We see a lot of people fighting over his case rather than support us".

Zafar Bhatti's sister Bibi Naureen has expressed her delight that he is alive and confirmed a "strengthening of security measures" by senior prison officers. "My brother has spoken several times of threats received in the cell", adds the woman now, "they told us that the next hearing will be held in prison. He did not commit the crime of which he is accused, we have suffered enough and do not have concrete and continuous support. Every day a different organization arrives and claims it will help us, but the reality is quite different".

 

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