In a heartbreaking saga of legal setbacks, Zafar Bhatti, a victim of blasphemy accusations and Pakistan’s longest-serving blasphemy prisoner, continues to endure the agony of extended detention.
Zafar Bhatti was arrested on July 12, 2012, and has been in prison since that date. During a harsh police interrogation, he confessed to blasphemy, a statement he later recanted, asserting that his confession was obtained under duress. Read more (here)
Despite hopes for his release, the High Court Bench in Rawalpindi has twice canceled the much-anticipated hearings, leaving his wife, Nawab Bibi, and their supporters in a state of despair.
The Unsettling Court Delays:
Initially scheduled for October 5th, the hearing was abruptly halted when the presiding judge claimed not to have read the case file. This disappointing start set the tone for subsequent events, as the High Court Judge, Sadaqat Ali Khan, postponed the hearing twice more after setting it for January 11, 2024.
Sadaqat Ali Khan’s perplexing decision to cancel the hearing, as conveyed to Saif-ul-Malook, a renowned lawyer specializing in blasphemy cases, shocked legal observers. The judge’s order, without apparent cause, left Mr. Malook bewildered, especially after months of preparation. Mr. Malook expressed his shock, noting that such practices in Pakistani courts were unfortunately not new.
Chronology of Legal Hurdles:
The journey to secure a hearing for Zafar Bhatti has been marked by numerous obstacles. The British Asian Christian Association took on Zafar Bhatti’s case immediately after he received a death sentence in December 2021 (click here). We engaged the services of Pakistan’s most accomplished solicitor, Zafar Bhatti, facilitated by the assistance of Hannah Chowdhry, a law student (click here) who expresses confidence in securing his release (click here).
Despite the dedicated efforts of Mr. Malook, the court did not schedule a date until March 9, 2023, citing a backlog of cases. This delay was attributed to the court’s handling of cases filed in 2021, resulting in an unjustifiable postponement of Mr. Bhatti’s hearing. Several other postponements occurred in the meanwhile and the
Hope Dashed in the Courtroom:
October 5th raised expectations for Zafar Bhatti’s potential release, only to be crushed when Judge Sadaqat Ali Khan, citing unread case files, refused to proceed. Nawab Bibi and the support team returned to Lahore, anxiously awaiting news of the next hearing.
A Rollercoaster of Emotions:
A glimmer of hope appeared on January 8, 2024, when Mr. Malook announced a hearing set for January 11. Nawab Bibi, elated by the news, found solace in the prospect of her husband’s imminent release. However, this optimism was short-lived, as on January 10, the court once again canceled the hearing, plunging Nawab Bibi back into despair.
Support and Resilience:
Despite the legal setbacks, British Asian Christian Association remains committed to aiding Zafar Bhatti. During a recent visit to Adiala Jail Rawalpindi on 11th January, BACA’s dedicated team traversed challenging conditions to supply monthly groceries and medicines to Zafar Bhatti. The organization’s support has contributed to maintaining his health during 12 years of solitary confinement, for which he expressed gratitude.
Update on Nawab Bibi’s Health:
Nawab Bibi, aged 75, has suffered a decline in health since learning of the latest hearing cancellation. Despite regular medication, her blood pressure remains uncontrolled. On January 15, BACA officers took her to the hospital due to severe headaches and muscle pains. With a blood pressure reading of 190/110, doctors prescribed medication and advised complete rest for her recovery. Let us pray for her good health, strength, and endurance. May she experience healing and well-being, and may she live to reunite with Zafar Bhatti outside his prison cell once again.
The British Asian Christian Association remains unwavering in its support for Zafar Bhatti and his wife as they endure the unjust consequences of an unwarranted blasphemy conviction. The financial commitment to this cause is substantial, with close to £300 a month allocated for Nawab’s residence and care in Lahore, while her family tends to her home in Karachi. Additionally, we facilitate regular supplies for Zafar Bhatti in prison, including toiletries, food, and clothes.
These efforts come with associated expenses, and if Zafar Bhatti’s case has resonated with you, we kindly request your support through donations (click here). Your contribution plays a pivotal role in our mission for justice.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said: “The ongoing legal struggles faced by Zafar Bhatti and his family underscore the challenges for Christians within Pakistan’s judicial system. The repeated delays in hearings and the toll it has taken on Nawab Bibi’s health highlight the urgent need for fair and expedited proceedings. Advocacy and support from both national and international communities are crucial to ensuring justice prevails in this high-profile blasphemy case.”