The Punjab prosecution department, in association with the home and police departments, has shortlisted 50 cases currently under trial in courts to speedily decide the fate of alleged blasphemers who, what the government claims, are ‘victimised’ by complainants.
The cases have been picked from 262 cases in different courts of the province from 2010 to date. The suspects, who are all Muslims booked under four sections of Chapter XV (of offences relating to religion) of the Pakistan Penal Code, are languishing in jails and are not being convicted because of lack of evidence, poor evidence, and non-availability of their counsel. A high-powered committee, headed by provincial secretary prosecution Rana Maqbool, sat fourth time a couple of days back since its constitution by the provincial government in Jan 2015 to discuss the modalities to pursue cases on a fast track basis and take all the religious schools of thought into confidence to avoid any backlash following release of the suspects.
The establishment of the committee followed the assassination of human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman in Multan in May last year who was pleading the case of a blasphemy accused. Police sources, associated with the outcome of the meetings, told Dawn on Monday that the participants in the meeting were of the view the provincial government would ‘defend’ the arrested suspects in courts as blasphemy accused hardly got a lawyer to defend his/her case because of societal pressures and threats. They said only those cases had been picked in the first phase which, according to the committee, were genuine and the accused were victimised, adding some of the arrested accused upon whom doubts prevailed might also be medically examined to determine their mental health.
The sources said the committee as empowered by the government was mulling to get decree from religious scholars of all schools of thought to avoid reaction. They said that in the last meeting which took place on Monday it was decided to increase number of cases for speedy trial and initiate judicial process in near future. They said a team of police officials, associated with the process, would meet additional prosecutor general Punjab on Tuesday (today) to discuss start of trials. -dawn