HRCP seeks inquiry into alleged blasphemer’s death
LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Tuesday expressed grave concern over the death of Naseem Bibi, an accused of blasphemy, in the Kot Lakhpat Jail and demanded an inquiry into the matter.
A press release by HRCP said Naseem’s death added to the number of alleged blasphemers dying in police or judicial custody before court decision on their cases. It said an alleged blasphemer, Yousaf Ali, was gunned down at the same jail last year while his case was pending with court. A few months later, another person charged with blasphemy was gunned down when he was coming out of court, it said.
“Such deaths can only add to the growing concern for the safety of persons accused under the country’s blasphemy laws. The evidence that these laws are being increasing misused makes the situation all the more alarming,” it said.
The press release said news reports that Naseem was in a solitary confinement in a death cell at the prison were distributing. “If this is true, action must be taken against the guilty jail officials. There are reasons to believe that conditions at prisons have deteriorated since non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are barred from examining the barracks,” it said, adding, “There is an urgent need for digging out facts in the latest case so that efforts could be made to spare the other alleged blasphemers a similar fate.”
Naseem was jailed along with her two sons on charges of blasphemy on May 26, 2003. She died at the Kot Lakhpat Jail on August 24. Shadbagh Police Station Moharrar Muhammad Khalid said Muhammad Yasin, a resident of Bhaggatpura, complained that he saw his neighbour Naseem Bibi and her two sons, Muhammad Zahid and Muhammad Shahid, throwing away the torn up pages of the Holy Quran and the police arrested all the three accused after registering a case. Naseem was sent to the Kot Lakhpat Jail while her sons were sent to the District Camp Jail.
Kot Lakhpat Deputy Superintendent of Jail Chaudhry Muhammad Ashraf said Naseem was a heart patient and died of heart failure. He said jail doctors used to visit her in her cell for medical treatment because the jail’s hospital did not have a separate ward for women.