Pakistan: yet another blasphemy shooting
Just days after Muslim academic Muhammad Shakil Auj was shot dead in Pakistan for alleged blasphemy, we learn that a 70-year-old UK man, in jail for blasphemy, has been shot by a prison guard, and is in a critical condition.
Muhammad Asghar, who is from Edinburgh, was arrested in 2010 after writing letters to a number of people claiming to be a prophet
A court in Rawalpindi convicted him of blasphemy earlier this year.
The attack took place at 08:30 local time inside the Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, where he was being held.
A Rawalpindi police official told BBC Urdu’s Shahzad Malik the gunman who shot the Scot is Mohammad Yousuf, a member of the Elite Force of police commandos.
He said Yousuf walked into Mr Asghar’s cell before shooting him. Prison security, who ran to the scene when they heard the gunshots, were said to have overpowered and disarmed Mr Yousuf.
At least one bullet was said to have hit him in the arm.
Asghar’s family and lawyers have said he has a history of mental illness and was sectioned under the mental health act in Edinburgh shortly before travelling to Pakistan.
British politicians and activists have been campaigning for his release, urging the Pakistani government to intervene in his case so he can be treated.
Adiala Jail is notorious for being overcrowded with poor conditions.
It is where the “celebrated” attacker of Governor Salman Taseer – Mumtaz Qadri, the Punjab Police guard – is also in custody. Taseer, above, was shot by the guard because the governor expressed opposition to Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law.
Asghar was convicted under the blasphemy law in 2010 and filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court in February 2014 against his sentence, but it has yet to be heard, appeals can take up to five years before they reach the court.
Asghar is now receiving treatment in hospital, but legal charity Reprieve – which is assisting him – remains “deeply concerned” about his security.
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve said:
This appalling attack shows that the only way to ensure Mr Asghar’s safety is to have him returned home to Britain. The UK government must redouble its efforts on this front – and as a first step, must urgently ensure that he is moved today to a safe location in Pakistan, until he is well enough to travel.
Mr Asghar is a vulnerable, 70-year old man suffering from severe mental illness – a fact which has been consistently ignored by the Pakistani courts during his four year ordeal.
David Cameron said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about his case earlier this year – but now we must see concrete action to ensure his safety.