Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan, was booked under blasphemy charges for alleged comments on Facebook and was arrested in March 2013. He has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in 2013, and extreme solitary confinement for the last one year.
Junaid’s trail continues to this day, with various hinderances prolonging the case. Junaid’s lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was shot to death in 2014, his death a stark reminder that defending alleged blasphemers was an intolerable act in Pakistan.
Blasphemy cases are an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan. Defenders of accused blasphemers do so at great personal risk. In 2011, Salman Taseer had been shot by his own bodyguard after he had taken a stand in favour of blasphemy accused, Aasia bibi.
Though Aasia was acquitted of all charges in 2018, her acquittal and the protests against it by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan showed that even if alleged blasphemers are proven innocent by the court, sections of the religious right would continue to use violence to not only influence cases, but to also attempt to pressurise the judiciary to change its verdict.
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