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International Scholars Appeal SC To Ensure Speedy, Fair Trial of Junaid Hafeez

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A large number of international academics have signed this open letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, calling for a speedy and fair trial of Pakistani scholar and teacher Junaid Hafeez who has been under trial for more than six years. Hafeez was accused of blasphemy and given the nature of charges he has been in solitary confinement. We are publishing the full text of this letter below.

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Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa

Hon’ble Chief Justice of Pakistan


Dear Sir,

As academics working in some of world’s leading universities, we would like to draw you attention toward the case of a university teacher, Junaid Hafeez, whose trial has been going on for over six years.  Through this letter, we request you to intervene in this matter to ensure a speedy and fair conclusion of the trial.

Junaid Hafeez, now 32, was a teacher as well as a candidate for MPhil in the English Language and Literature department in Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan in March 2013. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship by the State Department to study in the U.S. due to his outstanding scholarship. After completing his Fulbright Scholarship, Mr. Hafeez began teaching at Bahauddin Zakariya University and was falsely accused of blasphemy by a group of students and teachers on 13 March 2013. Since being charged, Mr. Hafeez has been kept in solitary confinement for most of the six years he has spent behind bars.

In the six and a half years since his arrest, the police and prosecution have failed to conclude the trial mainly because (a) there have been several transfers of the case from one judge to another; and  (b) the prosecution service, police witnesses and privately-engaged lawyers have extended the trial beyond a reasonable time.

Opposing parties have employed procedural tactics including the use of court extensions and delays but also there have been indirect and veiled threats issued for Mr. Hafeez and his supporters. It should also be noted that a previous defense counsel, Mr. Rashid Rehman, was assassinated in May 2014, and many news agencies have connected the assassination to Mr. Rehman’s defense work in this case.

 We would like to bring to your knowledge the most recent development in the case which has been raised by Mr. Hafeez’s defense counsel. The court has heard all relevant evidence in the case and the defense counsel was finally granted an opportunity to cross examine the prosecution’s witnesses. Despite the submission of delay-inducing last minute requests from the prosecution, the judge dismissed all additional petitions from the prosecution and has paved the way for an acquittal of Mr. Hafeez. 

However, in order to grant this acquittal, the judge in the case must be encouraged and bolstered by the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court of Pakistan to provide a just result to end this six year ordeal for Mr. Hafeez. We, therefore, urge you to kindly personally look into the matter and ensure that the honorable judge at trial is not brought under pressure. This can be done by making sure that he is provided adequate security now and in the future. Further, we request you to convey to the concerned quarters – including the honorable judge – to ensure that a fair trial must be concluded without any further delay. 

This case goes beyond the accusations of blasphemy and speaks to the very essence of academic freedom in Pakistan. We understand that the case against a bright academic like Junaid Hafeez is part of a larger systematic, malicious attempt by certain parties to deny academic freedom in this country. In March this year, Professor Khalid Hameed of Sadiq Egerton College, was assassinated by his student on the false pretext of blasphemy. The late professor was not the first victim of such a tragedy as numerous other academics have, in the recent as well as distant past, faced life threats, persecution and long periods of incarceration because of their academic views.

As academics, we believe, it is our responsibility to encourage students to think rationally and reflect critically on a range of social, political and religious challenges faced their societies. In our opinion, it is only by encouraging academic rigor, intellectual debate and a spirit of free inquiry that all countries, including Pakistan, can develop universities as sites of knowledge-production that can contribute towards the progress of a nation.

 We believe that the honorable chief justice shares our ideals about knowledge and the contribution of universities, and the role that a vibrant intelligentsia plays. We are, therefore, confident that the honourable chief justice will consider our request, to take up the case of Junaid Hafeez for a just and speedy resolution.

Junaid Hafeez’s trial is not about one individual, it is about the future of academic freedom in Pakistan and fostering an intellectually vibrant culture that values the work of professors like Mr. Hafeez.

  Thank you,

 

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Signatories to Letter

  1. Sadia Abbas, Rutgers University
  2. Mahvish Ahmad, London School of Economics
  3.  Majed Akhter, King’s College London
  4. Anila Quayyum Agha, Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University
  5. Ben Davis, University of Toledo School of Law
  6. Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar, Brown University
  7. Saad Gulzar, Stanford University
  8. Shahla Haeri, Boston University
  9. Waris Husain, Howard University School of Law 
  10. Shafqat Hussain, Trinity College
  11. Ayesha Jalal, Tufts University
  12. Ahsan Kamal, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  13. Tayyab Mahmud, Seattle University School Of Law
  14. Atif R Mian, Princeton University
  15. Nicki L. Michalski, Lamar University
  16. Reginald Mombrun, North Carolina Central University School of Law
  17. Daanish Mustafa, King’s College, London University
  18. Andy Opel, University of Bergen
  19. Florence Wagman Roisman, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
  20. Raza Ahmad Rumi, Ithaca College, Cornell University
  21. Awais Saleem, Lamar University 
  22. Beena Sarwar, Emerson College, Boston
  23. Alice M. Thomas, Howard University School of Law
  24. Ken Ward, Lamar University
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