Hearing date set for blasphemy victim Zaffar Bhatti  

A hearing date has been set for Zaffar Bhatti, a Christian victim of the Blasphemy law.

The case will be heard on 12 July 2014 and will be conducted in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi where Zaffar has been imprisoned  since September  2012.

The Police have registered a case against him under 295-C of the  blasphemy law, and section 25-D telegraph for sending blasphemous text messages.

During investigations in July 2013 the police recovered telephones and a sim card and indicted him. CLAAS took over Zaffar’s case in late November 2012, when his family approached is for support.

According to some news the Rawalpindi Bar association has passed a resolution saying that no one will defend Zaffar in court as he is a blasphemer.

CLAAS’s lawyer Malik Asif Taufeeq Awan tried to appear in court on on his behalf but was was threatened and the court clerk (of CLAAS) was beaten severely on court precincts by advocates from the Rawalpindi Bar association.

Keeping in view the whole  situation CLAAS made an application to the court stating that there is a threat of life to Zaffar Bhatti, and therefore his court hearing should be conducted in the prison.

In February 2013 the court passed an order for his trial to be heard in the prison as it is believed there is great threat to his life and pressure from militants.

Also keeping in view threats to Zaffar’s life, CLAAS submitted an application in the High Court Lahore on July 31, 2013 for permission  to transfer the case from Rawalpindi court to Lahore Court where CLAAS’ lawyers feel safer and can freely defend Zafar Bhatti in the blasphemy case against him.

After hearing lengthy arguments from CLAAS’s advocate Mr. Tahir Bashir Sahotra, the application was allowed by the Chief Justice of the High Court of Lahore ,but it was refused.

Unfortunately, the blasphemy law has become a powerful tool in the hands of extremists and is continually being misused against Christians to attack their churches, burn down their towns and villages and also kill innocent Christians.

Although the international community, including British Prime Minster David Cameron, has raised their concern and have demanded the protection of religious minorities and for appropriate changes to be brought to this law, sadly the Pakistani government has paid no attention and has even failed to bring those to justice who have been involved in killing innocent Christians, attacking churches and setting alight Christian villages.

On April 4, a Pakistani Christian couple, Shafaqat Emmanuel, a crippled 38-year-old man, and his wife Shagufta Kausar, 42, were found guilty of sending a text message insulting the Prophet Muhammad to the imam of their local mosque.

They were sentenced to death just days after Sawan Masih was given the same sentence for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a conversation with a Muslim friend in Lahore’s Joseph Colony last March.

Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK  is now asking the international community and Christians all over the world to pray for Zaffar Bhatti and a positive outcome for his case.

He said: “We need the prayers of the international church and Christian supporters so that the judges can be free of all pressure from Islamic extremists and make a just decision according to the facts, and fearing God. ”

We also need prayers for Zaffar Bhatti and his family, so that he remains strong in his belief in Christ, and for the protection of his family.”

CLAAS is among the organisations that are campaigning to repeal this controversial law or at least bring about appropriate changes to stop its misuse. CLAAS’s lawyers will be present during the hearing. Please pray that everything goes well and smoothly.

Mr Saeed added: “Please pray that the judge will have the strength and wisdom to make the right decision free from prejudice and with aclean, open heart.

“Please pray that God will fill the heart of the judge with a sense of urgency and compassion. Pray that pressure will be brought upon the Pakistani government to modify the Blasphemy Law and also pray that the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ will unite and remember to pray for the persecuted Church and be filled with an urgency to intensify its prayers for brothers and sisters who are suffering, at a time when hostility towards the Christian faith worldwide is intensifying.”

He continued: “We ask that you pray that God will bring healing and restoration to Zaffar Bhatti, Savan Masih, Aasia Bibi and all other victims of blasphemy law whose cases are listed for trial so that they can be assured that their faith has brought them to a successful outcome.”