Flawed Trial Of This 1993 Blasphemy Case Shows How Justice System Fails Blasphemy Accused

A blasphemy case from 1993 shows that trials in such cases are flawed, and are often carried out in light of lacking evidence and threats of violence. Many accused languish in jails for years before they are finally released, as in the case of Asia Bibi, or are convicted without fair trial, as in the recent case of Junaid Hafeez.

One such blasphemy case occurred in May of 1993 in Punjab, wherein three Christians were falsely accused. According to a user on Twitter, Free Thinker, an imam of a mosque in Gujranwala accused two Christian men, Manzoor and Rahmat Masih, and a minor boy, aged 11, Salamat Masih, of blasphemy. The allegation was that they had written derogatory lines on mosque’s wall.

The case was moved to the Lahore sessions court for security reasons. Every hearing witnessed mobs of chanting men who wanted the accused to be punished.

When asked by the court about what had been written on the walls, witnesses said that they could not repeat it as that would be blasphemy itself.

These statements of the witnesses were admitted as evidence in court despite the fact that Salamat and Manzoor were illiterate. Meanwhile, the three accused managed to get bail.

In April next year, the accused three along with a rights activist, John Joseph were attacked and Manzoor was killed. In response to the incident, Pakistan’s foreign minister stated that foreign agents were behind the attack.

In February 1995, Rahmat and Salamat were sentenced to death. Both appealed, and the Lahore High Court overturned the death sentence. Those who wanted them punished continued to chant for their deaths, and even the death of their lawyer at that time, Asma Jahangir.

The next year, the judge who had heard the appeal was assassinated and Asma’s house was attacked by militants. They tried to murder her brother and wife but failed as their weapon did not work.