LAHORE: The family of a mentally-ill man, charged with alleged blasphemy, has challenged the order of a district court judge three times since 2011 in order to seek his release from a mental hospital, stating that he needs to be in the care of his family.
The accused Irfan Rafique’s father has challenged the district court judge’s orders thrice now in the Lahore High Court. Rafique has been in jail since 2011. On his application, a medical board was constituted during his detention which established that he was suffering from schizophrenia, a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves.
The accused had then filed for an after-arrest bail but the district court judge dismissed the request in April 2011. Another request was dismissed by the LHC in October 2011, and a third request was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in February 2012.
However, the apex court did set aside orders passed by LHC and the district courts and directed that the bail application of the accused shall be deemed to be pending before the district court to be decided afresh in light of a report of the medical board. The petitioner, in the meanwhile, shall remain in a mental hospital in Lahore, the top court had ordered.
After that Rafique’s father filed an application in the court of the additional district and sessions judge seeking inquiry of those doctors who conducted his son’s medical examination. The then DG health who was also chairman of the board and two doctors Nisar Ahmed Cheema and Tahir Pervez were called before the court. In light of their statements as well as the medical report, Rafique was sent to a mental hospital on July 8, 2013.
However, his father challenged this order in the LHC in July 2013, but his lawyer later withdrew the application. Rafique’s father again filed an application under Section 466 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) on February 25, 2015, requesting the court that the health of the accused was deteriorating day by day and that he be released from hospital and sent home so that his family could look after him.
The judge dismissed this application in February 2015. Another application was filed under Section 466 of CrPC, a third time, seeking the same plea upon which the judge sought a report from the mental hospital which informed the court that the patient was being given treatment for schizophrenia. However, the judge dismissed the application for his release yet again.
The FIR registered against Rafique by Muhammad Qasim in Shadbagh police on March 30, 2011 states that Qasim received a message on his mobile in which derogatory language was used against the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Some recent blasphemy cases made headlines around the world, including that of Christian woman Aasia Bibi, whose conviction drew international attention including from the Pope. Her case was prosecuted by the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat.
The lynching of a student in Mardan by fellow students once again brought the blasphemy law to surface, with both houses of parliament calling for a “thoroughgoing review” of the legislation to stop its “misuse”.
Mashal Khan, 23, was killed by a vigilante mob consisting of hundreds of university students in the Abdul Wali Khan University premises by lynching for alleged blasphemy last week. The gory incident triggered a nationwide uproar.
In 2015, Punjab passed laws requiring blasphemy accusations to be investigated by a senior police officer. But some police sources said some senior officers were reluctant to be drawn into cases, and many were still being handled by more junior staff.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2017.
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