Pakistan man exonerated after serving 9 years for blasphemy

Blasphemy is a life-or-death issue in Pakistan. Protesters rallied in February 2016 against the hanging of a guard who, police said, killed the Punjab governor for saying he wanted to reform the nation's strict blasphemy laws. Reuters/Fayaz Aziz.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s supreme court exonerated a man convicted of blasphemy after he served nine years of a life sentence in prison.

A two-judge panel of the court ruled on Friday (Dec. 29) that Mohammad Mansha was falsely accused, citing lack of evidence.

According to court records, Mansha, 58, was arrested in September 2008 after the imam of a mosque in the Bahawalnagar district in Punjab province told authorities that Mansha had desecrated a copy of the Quran.

A Punjab judge convicted Mansha of blasphemy and sent him to life in prison in 2009. His conviction was upheld in 2014 and the supreme court took up the case the same year.

Mansha’s defense attorney, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, said his client was arrested on a complaint from a man who was suffering from hearing and speech impairments. He said evidence from such a witness has no legal value under the Evidence Act.

Mansha’s attorney said that after the complaint, his client was presented before a village council, where he was badly beaten and then handed over to police. The police registered the case under the country’s harsh blasphemy law based on the complaint of the imam, Hafiz Muhammad Munir. The hearing- and speech-impaired Akhtar Mohammad became the star witness.

Abdul Waheed, prosecutor in the case, said that there was no “scientific evidence” against Mansha and that the police investigation was “faulty,” which led to his acquittal. Waheed said Mansha, a poor villager, could not hire a lawyer so the court appointed him one.

Rights groups say Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy law is often exploited to settle personal scores.

Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan’s conservative society. In 2011, a liberal governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his official guard because he spoke in support of a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, languishing in a jail after being convicted in a blasphemy case.

Taseer said at the time that the blasphemy law was being exploited. The guard was later executed.

Zia Awan, head of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Assistance, lauded the supreme court’s verdict in Mansha’s case but said the court should have compensated him for his years behind bars on false charges.

Awan added that it is time for the Parliament to carefully look into the country’s blasphemy law and finds the means to curb its misuse or exploitation.

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  • It was BLASPHEMY laws, too, that got Christ Jesus tortured & crucified. Think on that tragically good news of salvation in the New Year 2018 Anno Domini.

    (1) According to John 10:24-25, 30-34, 36, 39: “The Jews … gathered around Him [‘Jesus’], and were saying to Him, ‘… If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. … I and the Father are one.’ The Jews picked up stones … to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for BLASPHEMY; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘… Do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are BLASPHEMING,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”?’ … Therefore they were seeking again to seize Him”.

    (2) According to Matthew 26:63-68 – “The high priest [‘Caiaphas’] said to Him [‘Jesus’], ‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has BLASPHEMED! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the BLASPHEMY; what do you think?” They [‘the scribes and the elders … the whole Council’] answered, ‘He deserves death!’ Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, ‘Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?'”

  • Are you still posting fictional accounts written 50+ years after Jesus death. The average man in Jesus time lived to be 35 years old. Do you have any documentation that any of the apostles met Jesus? Please post it.

    Do you have any documentation of what God actually said to Jesus when he was lone? The Bible cannot be the sole source of documentation for itself. That is now how the real world works.

  • “Do you have any documentation that … the average man in Jesus time lived to be 35 years old …? Please post it.”

    Which is to say, Since I’ve already cited for you reliable eyewitness testimony-based evidence, by the names of apostles John & Matthew – take it or leave it – that, like I said, “It was BLASPHEMY laws … that got Christ Jesus tortured & crucified”, now’s your turn to do the honor.

    “Do you have any documentation that … no, ‘it was [not] BLASPHEMY laws … that got Christ Jesus tortured & crucified …? Please post it.”

    No? Just blabber blabbering again? Thought so. I rest my case.

    That was easy.

  • Experiencing that tunnel vision syndrome again, are you? Or just not sure which religious group to bash is more fun for you?

    For according to Jared Ferrie, “Fear stalks Yangon’s Muslims after Buddhist-led killings”, Reuters, April 10, 2013: “In Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon, … monks from the apartheid-like movement helped stoke a wave of anti-Muslim violence in the central heartlands. Many Muslims in the city say they are living in fear after dozens of members of their faith were killed in March by Buddhist mobs whipped up by monks from the ‘969’ movement, a name that refers to attributes of the Buddha, his teachings and the monkhood. … Fears simmer after 13 boys died in a fire in an Islamic school on April 2. Officials blamed faulty electrical equipment but many Muslims believe the fire was started deliberately.”

    And according to Craddock Murray Neumann Lawyers Pty Ltd Sydney, “Afghan Hazara from Jaghori Converts to Atheism; Granted Refugee Status”, October 2, 2013: “In the course of our immigration law practice we acted for an Afghan Hazara from Jaghori who converted to atheism and faced persecution from the Taliban. Our client was raised as a Shi’a but converted to atheism. During Taliban rule our client’s family was forced to hide from the Taliban, fearing they would be targeted as Shi’a Hazaras in Jaghori.”

    And according to Saba Imtiaz, “Hindu Today, Muslim Tomorrow, Atlantic, August 14, 2017: “For the first 16 years of her life, Ravita Meghwar was a Hindu girl living in a village in Pakistan. But today her name is Gulnaz Shah, and she is married, and a Muslim. Her family members believe that kidnappers drugged them and abducted their daughter, and that she was forcibly converted to Islam. … A decade or two ago, Meghwar’s case would have gone unreported. But in recent years, case after case involving Hindu girls converting to Islam have emerged in courts in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province, home to the majority of the country’s Hindus. The allegedly forcible nature of the conversions, the almost identical pattern of the cases, and the targeting of minor girls have deeply unsettled the Hindu population, which constitutes about 2 percent of Pakistan’s approximately 200 million people.”