Image of Nawab Bibi after Rawalpindi court hearing on 8th February.
The plight of an elderly Blasphemy victim whose farcical charges for blasphemy should never have stood, is unable to get bail from Prison despite seriously declining health. The conviction he received does not make sense as the phone and SIM from which blasphemous texts appeared where not even his. Moreover he is illiterate and could not have texted in English making the whole delay a deeply concerning one with Zafar having lost 9 years of his life to a cruel and undeserved punishment.
Zaffar Bhatti has been living in isolated confinement within Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi for 9 years and is now exhibiting poor physical and mental health.
Despite serious health issues, Zaffar Bhatti has not been granted bail though the constitution of Pakistan allows it.
Despite a serious attempt to gain bail for Zafar on medical grounds for several years, his condition was ignored by the court, whereas bail has been granted to Muslims who have committed more heinous crimes.
Nawab Bibi (72 yrs), his long suffering wife, said:
“The denial of bail despite Zafar’s declining health is an obvious case of bigotry by the officials”
On 3rd September 2020, Zafar Bhatti’s health dropped to critical level after a severe heart-attack. Despite a series of previous near-fatal heart attacks and the obvious pain he was suffering, prison wardens failed to take Zafar to a hospital. A very concerned Nawab Bibi has also stated that Zafar was not even given any medical treatment at the prison, and he is only now alive, thanks to the grace of God.
Zafar’s counsel Tahir Bashir, has advised BACA despite the filed bail application on medical ground. However a number of court delays made gaining freedom for Zafar very difficult. The whimsical nature of reasons for court adjournments are disappointing to say the least with often the judge or opposing legal team failing to arrive to the appeal hearing.
The grating situation was made worse when on Monday 19th October during a court hearing, Judge Sajid Mehmud Khuram cancelled the hearing, stating that the court had not yet received the advice of the medical board of the jail.
Nawab Bibi who was very hopeful that her innocent husband would be out of jail, in bitter disappointment after the latest postponement, said:
“I was hopeful to have him with me today, but they have sent me away empty armed”
Former President Asif Ali Zardari was recently granted bail from 8 billion rupee suspicious transactions case by Islamabad High court, on the grounds of his poor health on February 3rd 2021 (click here). Muhammad Nawaz Sharif ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan was also granted bail on the same grounds in March 2019 (click here). But it seems Zafar Bhatti is simply not high profile enough and cannot afford the bribes necessary for such freedom.
Pakistani jails are famous for the lack of proper medical facilities for prisoners and this dearth is exacerbated for Christian prisoners, who are lowest in priority for health care.
Then a huge blow in the campaign for Zafar’s freedom occurred on 2nd November, Honourable High Court Judge, Mr. Sajid Mehmud Khuram denied bail on medical grounds stating that the prison medical board had not recommend a treatment outside jail.
This indifference of the jail medical board towards the vulnerable health condition of Zafar Bhatti is obviously a vivid example of the harsher treatment of minorities in a very Islamist environment. Blasphemy convicts are seen to be worse than murders and even live in the same brutal conditions in prison.
During the same hearing Judge Sajid Mehmud Khuram advised Advocate Tahir Bashir to file a regular plea for bail. Mr Tahir Bashir requested that the regular appeal be heard during the same session but was advised by the judge that he had not studied the case and set a date for 22nd November 2020.
On 22nd of November the judge then failed to arrive to the hearing as he was on holiday. A date was set for 9th December 2020 but winter holidays and a COVID-19 pandemic lockdown forced all courts to close.
Zafar Bhatti, has been suffering from severe diabetes and cardiovascular tension but his serious health condition is ignored.
Our Operations Manager, said:
“Other than religious persecution, Pakistani Christians are also the victims of persecution by the judiciary.
“It is recurrent among the reluctant judges to not dispense justice to the innocent victims of the blasphemy law.
“It is a well known fact that most of the victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy law are innocent and it has been proven that such accusation are a setup that revolve around the dreadful motives of the complainant.
“Pakistani has no fair procedure to deal with such cases.
“The indifferent and biased judges intentionally delay the hearings and keep the victims in the jails to die there.”
Nawab Bibi is desperately worried about the freedom and health of her hapless husband. Yesterday she called in a trembling voice and said:
“I went to visit Zafar today.
“He is afraid of being killed in the jail.
“The new superintendent of the jail has impounded his bible, the only source of solace to him in jail.
“They have taken away his stationary and pens and placed him in a cell with more sever confinement.
“There is no light in the new room except the sunshine which enters through a tiny window.
“The new superintendent is very strict and harsh to my husband”
“He is the only hope I have.
“In this old age with no children who else do I have?
“If something happens to him I will be lost.”
She further added:
“His health is not stable.
He is diabetic and there is a wound on the heel of his left foot which is not being treated by the jail medical officials”
BACA is deeply concerned about the health of Mr Bhatti and has communicated these concerns with Mr. Tahir Bashir, he said:
“Since the courts have resumed after the winter holidays, the hearing was twice dismissed by Judge Mr. Sajid Mehmud Khurm. The next hearing is fixed for a date in February ”
After learning about the current situation regarding the loss of his Bible, he said,
“I will request to the honourable court to command the superintendent to return his bible and other books – which is a violation of human rights.”
“I am still optimistic about getting bail but am waiting for the court to grant me an opportunity to argue for his freedom.”
BACA is providing help and support to Zafar Bhatti and his wife who has been isolated from him for so long. Our support includes payment of rent and help towards the cost living and medical expenses. You can donate towards our help for blasphemy victims and other persecuted Christians by donating (here)