By Victor Ochieng
A Christian man is set to spend the rest of his life behind bars for allegedly sending conspicuous text messages in Pakistan. Christian-based Non-Governmental Organizations in the country have protested the ruling, citing Islamic bias, reported the British Pakistani Christian Association.
Zafar Bhatti was locked up under section 295c of Pakistan’s Penal Code, a decision many Christian leaders believe was based on religious discrimination.
Campaigners against the decision say there is no concrete evidence to back the May 3, 2017 ruling. Bhatti, who served as a pastor until he was nabbed by the Pakistani authorities had been accused of sending several blasphemous text messages from his mobile phone. However, experts have revealed that the SIM card used to send the messages wasn’t registered under his name, but under a totally different Computerized National Identity card holder (CNIC).
Bhatti was accused alongside Ghazala Khan, whose CNIC was found to have been the one registered against the SIM card used to send the message. The authorities arrested her on November 11, 2012, and was lucky to receive some leniency for the mere fact that she’s a woman. Khan was granted bail almost immediately.
On April 8, 2013, Justice Khalid Mehmood of the Lahore High Court declined to make a ruling against Khan. In a bizarre trial, the judge tried so much to convince the petitioner, Ibrar Ahmed, the Secretary of Ahle Sunnat Pakistan, to forgive Khan, reminding him that Muhammad forgave many people and so we should follow his example.
Seeing the manner in which the judge handled the issue, so many Pakistani media outlets concluded that it was nothing but a delaying tactic. At the time, Khan appealed to the court to serve her justice by exonerating her. She, however, indicated that she didn’t want to be forgiven by the petitioner, arguing that evading the blasphemy charges would make it appear like she was guilty in the first place. Believing that she was innocent, she basically wanted the court to free her on merit.
Unfortunately, Khan passed on in November last year at the age of 39 after a serious battle with Hepatitis C.
Bhatti is, however, still locked up. For security reasons, his trials have been taking place at the Central Jail Adiala, Rawalpindi’s premises, the place he’s been detained since July, 2012. But even in prison, Bhatti has faced several attempts on his life, including being poisoned in March 2013, an incident that left him bleeding both in the mouth and nose.