In a troubling incident in Pakistan, police prevented a Christian individual, Haroon Shahzad, charged with blasphemy, from attending his bail hearing on Tuesday (July 11).
As a result, a judge yielded to the pressure exerted by a vociferous crowd of slogan-shouting Muslims and denied Shahzad’s release, according to sources.
Shahzad, a resident of a village near Sargodha, had been under protective custody since July 3, despite being granted pre-arrest bail, as confirmed by his attorney, Aneeqa Maria.
Maria expressed her disappointment at the police’s handling of Shahzad’s case, alleging that they deliberately obstructed his appearance before the judge in an effort to sway the outcome. “The police denied justice to Shahzad to appease the religious parties,” she stated. “They knew he would be granted bail on merit, which is why they deliberately kept him from appearing before the judge.”
As soon as Shahzad’s case was called for the hearing, Muslim extremists within the Sargodha courtroom of Additional Sessions Judge Nazir Ahmed erupted into inflammatory slogans. Maria described the scene, saying, “They shouted slogans against Shahzad, demanding that he be punished and vowing to intensify protests if he were released on bail. Amidst this chaos, I commenced my arguments, pleading with the judge to grant permanent bail since the case against my client lacked merit.”
Maria also presented the argument that Shahzad could not be charged with blasphemy, as he had merely posted verses from the Bible without any personal remarks, let alone any disrespectful remarks towards Islam.
To her surprise, the Investigating Officer (IO) appeared in court without Shahzad. “When the judge inquired about Shahzad, the IO claimed he was not in police custody and professed ignorance about his whereabouts,” she recounted. “I refuted his claim, informing the judge that Shahzad had been taken into protective custody in my presence. However, my pleas were disregarded, and the judge, ostensibly succumbing to pressure from the mob, rejected our request for permanent bail since Shahzad had not appeared in court.”
Maria asserted that the police colluded with Muslim leaders to deny bail to Shahzad.
“After the proceedings concluded, approximately 200 religious activists congregated near the main gate of the courthouse, accompanied by groups of lawyers affiliated with various extremist parties,” she disclosed. “Some local lawyers cautioned us that we could be at risk of an attack and advised us to leave the premises through the rear exit. The situation was so tense that we had to wait in the bar association room until the mobs departed.”
Maria further revealed that she learned on Wednesday (July 12) that the police, to maintain the charade, had purposely delayed formally recording Shahzad’s arrest and transferring him to judicial lockup until hours after Tuesday’s hearing.
According to Maria and other local sources, the complainant, Muhammad Imran Ullah, has affiliations with the extremist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and strong ties to the banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
“Ullah is thirsting for Shahzad’s blood and is determined to exact personal vengeance,” Maria lamented. “While some individuals, including local Christians, claim they are negotiating reconciliation with religious parties, this act of undermining the bail proceedings has exposed their assertions.”..read more
Original news source: Morning Star News