Pakistani Students Of Harvard University Concerned Over Junaid Hafeez’s Conviction
The Harvard Pakistan Student Group (HPSG) has condemned blasphemy accused Junaid Hafeez’s death sentence and released a statement which reads as follows.
The Harvard Pakistan Student Group expresses grave concern at the conviction awarded to Junaid Hafeez by the Sessions Court, Multan under section 295(c) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The HPSG believes that the conviction is symptomatic of a broken criminal justice system that inhibits access to justice and jeopardizes our endeavour for a just, pluralistic, and tolerant Pakistan.
We, therefore, strongly urge Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed to address the legal and sociological factors that violate an accused’s right to fair trial in such cases. The HPSG urges undertaking broader judicial reforms to improve the lacunae in investigation, prosecution and adjudication which result in judicial miscarriage in cases including but not limited to those tried under section 295(c). In sensitive cases such as the instant case, protection may be provided to judges, especially judges of the lower courts who are particularly vulnerable to social pressures and vigilantism.
Additionally, we urge Prime Minister Khan and Justice Ahmed to amend archaic colonial laws and procedures that inhibit an accused’s freedom before conviction and continue to afflict our criminal justice system. We hope that these amendments ensure that our rules of evidence and investigative techniques conform to international practices and are consistent with advancements in modern technology. In the instant case, the HPSG condemns the manner in which the Court has imposed liability on the accused for content posted by others on a Facebook page administered by the former. This precedent whereby a person may be held liable for content posted by others, the HPSG believes, would cause a chilling effect in society and would be used to stifle dissent.
We wish to reiterate our commitment to the right to fair trial which forms the bedrock of our constitutional dispensation and the principle of Adal (justice) espoused by Islam. We are confident that the government and law enforcement agencies would endeavour to safeguard the life, liberty, and property of those accused of crimes under section 295(c) as well as their families.