(AsiaNews) - Once again, Pakistan's blasphemy law has been used to bring
unsubstantiated charges against members of religious minorities. Rev Zafar
Bhatti, president of the Jesus World Mission, is in prison after he was accused
of violating the 'black law.' Judges now must decide whether or not to heed the
appeal made on his behalf and release him on bail. A Muslim leader said the
Christian clergyman sent him text messages that insulted Islam and the Prophet
Muhammad. Catholic leaders and human rights activists have responded immediately,
pleading for his innocence, noting that police has been subjected to pressures
and that the case is vitiated by errors in law.
Bhatti hails from Karachi, but moved to Lahore in 2010, in Nawaz Sharif Colony,
where he has worked on behalf of local Christians and religions minorities for
the past two years. On 10 July, he decided to move with his family to the
capital Islamabad. The next day, Ahmed Khan, deputy Secretary of the local Jamat
Ehl-e-Sunnat, unexpectedly filed a complaint against the Christian clergyman at
the New Town police station, in Rawalpindi.
to the police report, Khan received some text messages on his mobile phone with
insulting language towards Muhammad's mother from an unregistered but visible number,
which he kept in the phone's memory. At the police station, he said that if the
agents did not open an investigation for blasphemy under article 295-C of the Penal
Code, his organisation would take matters in its own
The affair is full of holes however, including the
charges against the Christian minister. Offenders who violate Article 295, Sections
B and C, of the Penal Code could get the death penalty. However, insulting the
prophet's mother falls under Article 295, Section A, which entails lighter
arrested Rev Bhatti on 16 July and his sister-in-law Nasreen Bibi. In custody, the
pastor was physically abused and tortured to extract a confession but he stood
his ground, rejecting the accusation and insisting on his innocence.
wife turned to All Pakistan Minorities
Alliance (APMA), an associated founded by Shahbaz Bhatti, asking for justice. Today,
a court hearing is expected to rule on his demand for release on bail.
Bhatti is innocent," said Khalid Jill, of APMA. "We are going to fight for his release."
In his view, police began a case against him under "pressure," but we "are
going to appeal because he was charged under the wrong article of the law."
Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, is of the same opinion. "How can
police be sure" about the offender's identity? "It is clear that it is a case
of personal animosity," probably in connection with some land.