Blasphemy- Family of man shot in Pakistan prison appeal to Cameron to intervene
- The Guardian, Friday 26 September 2014 15.36 BST
The family of a mentally ill Edinburgh man shot in a Pakistan prison have appealed to David Cameron to intervene in their father’s case.
Blasphemy-sentenced to death
Mohammad Asghar, 70, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in January after writing letters claiming to be from the prophet Muhammad, was allegedly shot in the back by a prison guard at Adiala prison in Rawalpindi on Thursday morning. He remains in intensive care and his family believe that the next 48 hours will be critical to his personal safety.
Speaking through tears at a press conference in Glasgow, Asghar’s daughter Jasmine Rana said: “We are begging David Cameron and the whole British government to do everything they can to ensure that as soon as he is well enough to travel our father is brought back to the UK where he will be safe.”
Asghar was arrested in 2010 in Rawalpindi after a blasphemy complaint was brought against him by a tenant with whom he was having a dispute. The family’s solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said that in court his lawyers were not allowed to present expert evidence that Asghar was suffering from severe paranoid schizophrenia and that he was unfit to stand trial even though he had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act in Edinburgh shortly before travelling to Pakistan.
Rana expressed her frustration that the family had been told to remain publicly silent about her father’s plight because of the sensitive nature of blasphemy cases.
“It’s not fair that we had to wait for something like this to happen for the case to be recognised.” She added: “My dad is a father of five and a grandfather to nine. We all miss him desperately and just want him to come home.”
“We understand the sensitivity of these cases and that members of the Pakistani authorities have been subject to death threats if they deal with blasphemy cases. It will take real courage for someone in Pakistan to take hold of this case.”
He said that the Foreign Office had given the family a stock response, which was no longer good enough: “David Cameron is in parliament today talking about the plight of people in the Middle East. We expect him to take charge of the situation and do something about Mohammed Askhar who is a British citizen and likely to die.”
Blasphemy- Appeal to Scottish & UK Government
The Scottish minister for external affairs and international development, Humza Yousaf, and a representative of the death row charity Reprieve met the governor of Punjab and the former Scottish Labour MP Mohammed Sarwar in July, when they were advised that Asghar’s mental health was deteriorating rapidly. A deadline given to the Pakistani government at that meeting for urgent progress to be made has since expired.
A Foreign Office spokesman said on Thursday: “We have raised our concerns with the local authorities at a senior level.”
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “The Scottish government remains concerned about Mr Asghar and our thoughts are with his family. We are monitoring the situation closely and are in contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the NGO supporting Mr Ashgar and his family.”