August 22 , 2022
By Rehan Piracha
TK, a 60-year-old doctor, is languishing in Peshawar jail for over three months after being arrested in connection with a blasphemy case. He has been denied bail twice as courts are reluctant to give any reprieve to such accused in view of pressure from extremist groups.
According to TK’s family, a pharmaceutical company representative with an extremist religious leaning, lodged a blasphemy case after the doctor refused to prescribe the firm’s medical product in exchange for a hefty offer of money.
“Before leaving the clinic the medical representative threatened TK that the money he refused would now be used to teach him a lesson,” TK’s younger brother tells Voicepk.net.
The medical representative immediately went to a police station along with a local cleric and lodged a complaint that TK had committed blasphemy during conversation with them in his clinic.
The police registered a first information report based on testimony of the complainant and the local cleric and arrested the doctor for the offences under sections 295-A and 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code.
According to TK’s brother, immediately after the case was registered local clerics and extremists ganged up against TK and other members of the family.
“They made announcements against TK and would also publicly threaten family members coming for court proceedings,” his brother says. There is a gang comprising lawyers and clerics that has consistently pressured the lawyers not to take up the case of TK. “No local lawyer was willing to represent him as they feared for their safety and life,” the brother recalls, adding that senior lawyer Abdul Latif Afridi finally agreed to be TK’s lawyer. Afridi is among a few of the lawyers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that represent the accused in blasphemy cases.
Abdul Latif Afridi says his client enjoyed a good and untarnished reputation in the town where he served as a doctor for over 40 years.
“There has been not a single instance that he has spoken out against religion in the period,” Afridi points out. He said TK had also submitted an affidavit denying allegations of blasphemy against him.
Afridi said TK was falsely accused in the case due to a dispute with the complainant over not prescribing medicines of the latter’s pharmaceutical firm and the charges were groundless. The senior lawyer lamented that the courts were succumbing to pressure from extremist groups and in this case had denied bail to his client twice. The Peshawar High Court denied TK’s bail application in July.
Afridi said the family has approached the Supreme Court to appeal against the denial of bail. “I hope that the apex court would set aside the PHC decision and grant bail to TK,” he added.
TK’s brother says the family had to move TK’s children to a safe place after letters inscribed with death threats were pushed through the door of the house. “I’m threatened every time that I go to court for my brother’s appearance there and the words usually are you and your family could end up dead for pursuing the case,” he says.
Similarly, the brother says TK is also not safe in jail and when he is brought to court every fortnight for extension in his remand. “Jail officials have told the judge to grant TK an exemption from appearance in the remand hearing as the lives of other inmates might be in danger who are brought along with blasphemy suspects such as TK,” his brother says. But the judge refused to grant exemption despite police requests, he adds.
TK’s brother says a local lawyer affiliated with a religious party was fanning hatred against his family in a bid to gain popularity. “This lawyer has come around with a dozen people in order to pressure courts not to grant bail,” he says.
“People close to the lawyer have told me he is pursuing the blasphemy case to secure his candidature for National Assembly seat from the town,” TK’s brother reveals.
According to senior lawyers representing blasphemy accused in the country, trial judges often adjourn such cases without any proceedings in view of a pressure from a group of lawyers with extremist leanings thronging their courtrooms. The senior lawyers say trial judges often pass the buck of acquittal to the superior courts. A blasphemy case usually takes about seven years to conclude and many suspects continue to languish in jails till then.
Pakistan has seen a wave of mob lynching on allegations of blasphmey. A Sri Lankan national was stoned to death in Sialkot in December 2021 while a mentally-challenged man was lynched in Tulamba village of Khanewal in February.