Lahore, Pakistan – Humayun Allahrakha, a man who was jailed for nearly eight years on blasphemy charges, has been released from jail by a Lahore court.
Allahrakha, a resident of Lahore, was arrested in 2015 under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. He was accused of committing blasphemy by Muslim community after he was caught burning a newspaper in Sanda, Lahore, with claims that the burnt newspaper contained some verses of the Islamic holy book.
The incident caused havoc as mobs started attacking Christian homes and churches as at the time. Allahrakha maintained his innocence throughout his trial and despite his protests, he was sentenced to life in prison in 2018.
However, on March 30, 2023, the Lahore High Court acquitted Allahrakha of all charges due to proof of innocence. The court’s decision was celebrated by Allahrakha’s family, friends, and supporters, who had been campaigning for his release since his arrest.
In a report by Premier, the National (Catholic) Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a Catholic-run advocacy organisation, intervened and proved Mr Allahrakha’s innocence and so the Lahore District and Sessions Court acquitted him. After his release from jail, he was taken to a safe location to ensure his adequate protection.
In a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Emmanuel ‘Mani’ Yousaf, NCJP National Director, said: “It is a matter of life and death to be able to help those accused in such situations.”
According to Father Yousaf, Mr Allahrakha was diagnosed with mental issues and so he used the newspaper to smoke narcotics. Father Yousaf said: “He was a drug addict, sitting with his friends in a dirty place. He got hold of one piece of paper and used it to smoke drugs. “Some of the paper contained verses of the Qur’an. But the man is illiterate. He did not know what he was doing.”
Allahrakha’s case had become a cause célèbre for human rights activists in Pakistan and around the world, who had long criticised the country’s blasphemy laws as being used to persecute religious minorities and to silence dissenting voices.