03/15/2011, 00.00
Send to a friend

Karachi: Christian jailed for blasphemy dies in suspicious circumstances, say activists

by Jibran Khan
Qamar David, painter originally from Punjab, had been accused by a business rival with insulting the Prophet Muhammad. In jail since 2006, he was harassed by both guards and inmates. The man died of a heart attack, but human rights groups call for an investigation. Bishop of Islamabad: the accusations are false, it is time to abolish the "black law".

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Qamar David, a Christian originally from Lahore Pakistan, but living in Karachi died in prison while serving a life sentence for blasphemy. Official sources confirm that the man died last night in his cell, after a heart attack. in the past he had suffered several episodes of violence within the prison walls. Human rights activists are calling for an investigation to ascertain the "true causes" of death. Interviewed by AsiaNews, the bishop of Islamabad speaks of "false accusations" against David fabricated to convict him and asks "how much Christian blood will still flow," before the infamous blasphemy laws are "abolished."

Qamar David was a native of Hamza, near Lahore (Punjab), but was a self employed painter in Karachi in the south of the country. On 8 June 2006 he was reported by a business rival on false charges of blasphemy in accordance with Articles 295 and C of the Pakistan Penal Code. According to the plaintiff, he sent telephone messages with insulting words against Muhammad.

Under the controversial blasphemy rules, introduced in 1986 by Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq, anyone who uses derogatory phrases to refer to the prophet or desecrates the Koran is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Typically, capital cases are switched to life imprisonment. On 25 February 2010, the Karachi court adjunct Judge Jangu Khan, found him guilty of "outrageous" words against Muhammad, and exclusively based on the "black law" and the testimony of his accuser, David Qamar was sentenced to prison for life.

The man died overnight in prison and prison authorities have tried to pass his death off as a heart attack. The Police Commissioner said that the body is being held in the Civil Hospital, Karachi, available to health authorities for an autopsy, which should shed light on the real cause of death.

Groups of Christian human rights activists are calling for the formation of a committee of inquiry to ascertain the reasons for the man’s death. In the meantime the family has set out for Karachi, to retrieve his body. David was in prison since the summer of 2006, and in these years in prison, had regularly suffered threats and beatings both from prison guards and fellow prisoners.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr. Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi, expresses his "personal" pain and that of "the whole Catholic Church" for several days in mourning for the murder of Catholic Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated last March 2. "We have not yet recovered from the loss - says the prelate - and this new information increases our concern for the future of Christians in Pakistan." The bishop speaks explicitly of "false accusations of blasphemy against Qamar David and asks" how much blood is still to be spilt "before the" black law "is abolished. He points his finger at the government, whose hands were "bloodied" and concludes: "This is another sad day for the minorities in Pakistan."

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
"We are optimistic," says Paul Bhatti as Rimsha Masih's bail hearing postponed to Friday
Christian "blasphemer" dies of heart failure but relatives speak of poisoning
Christian charged with blasphemy released
Two Muslims accused of blasphemy murdered in two days
Some 300 people attend funeral of Christian “blasphemer” who died in prison, prayers for Bhatti


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”