HRCP’s concerns over a prisoner’s death

Lahore, July 18: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed its shock and anger at the death of a prisoner, accused of blasphemy and murder, who was mentally challenged and the circumstances of his detention that have again exposed the possibilities of abuse of blasphemy laws and the flaws in the prison system. In a statement issued on Monday the commission said:

Blasphemy laws and a grossly unsatisfactory prison system have claimed another victim. Shaukat Ali, who died in a Lahore hospital the other day after being shifted from the district/camp jail, had been arrested in January 2007 and charged under sec 295-B of PPC (alleged desecration of the Holy Quran). There is no explanation as to why he was kept in prison for more than four years. He was said to be a mentally challenged person but he was denied psychiatric treatment. In 2010 he was accused of murdering a fellow detainee and again little notice was taken of his mental condition. To add to the grimness of the story the detainee’s family  did not know what had happened to him till a fortnight before his death. All this sounds like a tale from a feudal kingdom in middle ages. Quite obviously anyone charged, however wrongly, with an offence under any blasphemy-related laws loses all claims to be treated as an innocent human being. The provincial government must hold a thorough inquiry into the matter and punish anyone found guilty of dereliction of duty or inhuman conduct. Such instances put a question mark on the Pakistani people’s claim to sanity and respect for reason, their survival even.

Zohra Yusuf


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