Junaid Hafeez — A Promising Life Ruined By The Blasphemy Law
Blasphemy accused scholar Junaid Hafeez, who had been imprisoned for over six years, was sentenced to death today by a local court in Multan. Junaid Hafeez used to teach at the Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan when he was accused of blasphemy. The allegations were made by a student group that was allegedly opposed to his appointment at a permanent position in the university.
Before being accused of blasphemy and put behind bars, Hafeez had a promising life.
Hafeez was born in Rajanpur, Punjab where he completed his Intermediate in pre-medical and secured a gold medal.
After his Inter, he got into the prestigious King Edward Medical College (KEMC) in Lahore where he was to study medicine. After spending two years here, he discovered that his true passion was literature. This realization came to him after writing for various magazines like the Khaleej Times where he would submit his poetry and short pieces.
Hafeez soon realised that he wanted to study literature and not medical sciences, after which he took admission in Multan’s Bahauddin Zakriya University (BZU) where he majored in English Literature.
In 2009, he was granted a Fulbright Scholarship that allowed him to go to the US for his graduate studies. There, he attended the Jackson State University and majored in American literature, photography and theatre. His graduate studies came to an end in 2011 after his thesis called ‘An Ethnographic Study of Masculinity in Popular Cinema in Multan’ was completed.
He then moved back to Multan where he started teaching in BZU’s English Literature Department. He also applied for a permanent position at the university and that is where the trouble started.
BZU was undergoing Islamization under the influence of the Islami Jamiat-i-Talba (IJT). They wanted a professor sympathetic to their cause to get the position that Hafeez was the favourite for. In order to prevent that from happening, they accused Hafeez of blasphemy on social media.
Since March 13, 2013, Hafeez has been under arrest and placed in solitary confinement for his own safety. His previous lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was killed in 2014. His case was then taken over by a Lahore based lawyer who traveled to Multan on a regular basis for his hearings.
According to his present lawyer, the prosecution in the case was creating hurdles in the trial by using delaying tactics and by providing no evidence for their claims. The judge in the case was being allegedly pressured into giving a verdict in favour of the prosecution.
Various international organizations, like Scholars at Risk, academics and activists have raised their voice of Hafeez’s issue but the justice system has failed to register any of their concerns.