Hopes for the release of Pakistan’s longest serving blasphemy prisoner ever have risen, despite what seems like intentional court delays.
The High Court Bench Rawalpindi once again canceled the hearing of Zafar Bhatti after fixing it for 9th March 2023
Sheer disappointment shattered the hopes of Nawab Bibi, the wife of Zafar Bhatti who has been apart from her husband for 10 years.
The country’s most successful blasphemy lawyer Saif-Ul-Malook has prepared a video message, in which he states that Pakistan’s judicial system is itself criminal.
Mr Malook has also stated that he is confident that Zafar Bhatti will be set free after a trial hearing, a message the likes of which he has never shared before a trial.
The British Asian Christian Association appointed solicitor for Zafar Bhatti, is confident that he will be set free after his next appeal hearing.
In a pre-trial video he speaks of the criminal actions of Pakistani Courts in delaying Mr Bhatti’s trial for no reason, stating that he applied for the hearing in 2022, but the courts have tried to delay the hearing based on a backlog of trials, despite the court ordering quite clearly on two occasions that the hearing should be heard after the summer break in 2022 You can watch the whole statement by Saif-ul-Malook in our video here:
In the video, Mr Malook who is sitting at his office desk with the ageing wife of Zafar Bhatti before him, describes the woeful treatment of Zafar Bhatti, he said:
“In regard to Zafar Bhatti’s case, I would like to say that our judicial system is very felonious.
“It’s outrageous that an innocent person has been detained in jail for twelve years, while his appeals are being ignored.
“In the previous year, two judges have ordered that his appeal be fixed after the summer holidays.
“This was for summer 2022!
“This order is available to the public and is on record, yet the case has not been fixed.
“I travelled to Rawalpindi to see the court registrar who told me that the appeal was filed in 2022, but currently appeals filed in 2021 are being opened.
“I asked him to bring me the case file where I showed him the order written by the judges, only then did he fix a date.
“He gave me a date for the hearing but two or three days before the hearing, he again told me that this appeal was filed in 2022 and only appeals filed in 2021 were being opened.
“It seems he has taken the file to a senior judge; following usual process but the judge then refused it.”
Mr Malook filed a bail application and visited the office of the court registrar at Rawalpindi in January 2022. It took him three months to get a date fixed for hearing on 9th March. When we shared the news about the hearing with Nawab Bibi, she fell down on her knees to give her thanks to the Lord. However on 8th March, Mr Malook informed our operations manager that the hearing date had been cancelled by the court without any reason.
Apparently, he had received a call from the court to inform him about the hearing cancellation. The news was disappointing and Nawab Bibi broke down in tears when she was advised of the postponement.
When asked about why the delays are taking place during his video statement, Mr Malook added:
“The issue according to my experience is that no judge wants to hear blasphemy appeals.
“No Judge wants Molvis”(Muslim Clerics) against them.
“They hide behind technical reasons, in this case by saying that they have refused the hearing because the appeal was filed in 2022, while they were dealing with the appeals filed in 2021.”
Even then quite confidently, Mr Malook asserted that Zafar Bhatti, will be set free, he said:
“I confirm, I have thoroughly studied the case of Zafar Bhatti and have prepared it well.
“Inshallah he will be released from the High Court. The judges should hear it as soon as possible.
“Yesterday it came to my notice that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has perhaps given instructions to High Court.
They have made a list of 9 to10 pending appeals [for blasphemy cases] and a special bench is about to be formed where all these appeals will be heard.
“Whenever this hearing will be fixed, it is very much expected that he will be released from the High court.”
On 6th April, during our monthly visits to Zafar Bhatti in jail to supply groceries, we also took Nawab Bibi who had not seen him for two months due to poor health. Zafar Bhatti expressed his gratitude and exhibited much more confidence than ever before, he said:
“I am thankful to you BACA for taking care of my elderly wife [Nawab Bibi].
“You have taken care of her as you would for you own mother it has been heartening to see.
“I believe my plight will soon end, my time with Saif-ul-Malook suggests he is very knowledgeable.
“God has brought him to my aid in such a time of need.”
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“BACA has for many years spoken about the torrid justice procedure in Pakistan, that is set against Christians.
“Judges cancel hearing at a whim, inadequate protection is provided at courts with blasphemy hearings, and many judges have an islamist bias, to name but a few concerns.
“This is the first time a Muslim advocate in a pending blasphemy trial has highlighted such concerns; it’s a welcome step towards progress.
“We are extremely, pleased that Mr Malook has shared his confidence that Zafar Bhatti will be set free, because his words will inspire many and we at BACA know Zafar Bhatti is innocent.
“The fact Mt Bhatti spent has already spent over ten years in prison under false charges is a poor indictment of Pakistan’s justice system.
“Moreover, the failure for Pakistan to move away from such draconian blasphemy laws, is a clear illustration that the nation is still under hostage to extremists.”
Fears that Zafar Bhatti (55 yrs), Pakistan’s longest serving blasphemy convict could be the first ever to be lynched heightened after a judge increased his sentence from life imprisonment to death on 3rd January 2022 (click here)
Judge Sahibzada Naqeeb Shehzad, of Sessions Court Rawalpindi made this ruling despite clear physical and electronic evidence of the innocence of Zafar Bhatti.
No forensic evidence exists for any blasphemy by Zafar Bhatti, in fact every piece of physical and electronic evidence suggests he is innocent. Zafar Bhatti however was convicted based on an unsubstantiated report declaring his guilt, made by police in the early stages of their investigation. During that investigation Zafar Bhatti states he was coerced into a false investigation under a brutal police interrogation. Read time line (here)
Zafar Bhatti could still be killed any day under the terms of his blasphemy conviction under Section 295C of the Blasphemy law of Pakistan. Read more (here).