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Pakistani Christian jailed for blasphemy found dead in prison cell

By on Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Protesters hold up a picture of Mumtaz Qadri, suspected murderer of Salmaan Taseer, at a rally against reforming the blasphemy laws (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

Protesters hold up a picture of Mumtaz Qadri, suspected murderer of Salmaan Taseer, at a rally against reforming the blasphemy laws (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

A Pakistani Christian who was jailed for life for blasphemy last year has been found dead in his prison cell in Karachi.

Qamar David, who was jailed in 2002 following an accusation of blasphemy but only sentenced last year, died of a heart attack, according to prison authorities. But Church leaders and human rights activists have called for the cause of death to be assessed independently.

Qamar David was sentenced to life imprisonment in February last year, but had been seeking to appeal against the ruling.

His lawyer, Pervez Chaudhry, told the BBC: “My client was in perfect condition the last time I met him. I have spoken to the family and we don’t believe he died a natural death. He had been receiving threats against his life.

“I had submitted an application in this regard in court – my client had also mentioned that prison officials were involved.”

Shahid Sagar, David’s cousin, said: “I visited him quite regularly and he had never complained of any illness.

“He was certainly not in the kind of condition that would make him drop dead all of a sudden. I can’t accept this report of him dying of a heart attack.”

But prison officials said that Qamar David died of natural causes. Ghulam Qadir Thebo, inspector general of prisons, said he was lodged in a Christians-only wing – so there was no question of him being targeted by Muslim prisoners.

“Our investigations have not yielded any evidence of foul play,” Mr Thebo said.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Qamar David’s lawyer had always maintained that the allegations of blasphemy were spurious, triggered by a business rivalry, and that the conviction was the result of pressure from local religious clerics and their supporters. David and his lawyer had reportedly experienced threats or violence from mobs at nearly every court hearing.

Andrew Johnston, Christian Solidarity Worldwide advocacy director, said, “We are shocked to hear this sad news and our thoughts and prayers are with Qamar David’s wife and children. The last nine years of this family’s life have been utterly ravaged by the consequences of a vindictive blasphemy accusation that would have very likely been dismissed by the High Court in time. It is yet another tragic example of lives needlessly destroyed by the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and the inability of the government, court system and prisons to prevent this. Given the threats known to be faced by blasphemy prisoners, it is imperative that the true cause of his death be investigated properly and independently.

“This news comes less than two weeks days after the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, and it underlines the urgent need to continue his work. The government must address both the ease with which the blasphemy laws can be abused, and the social attitudes which view it as acceptable to do so.”

  • Anonymous

    This is pretty disgusting. I would have expected much better of one of Britain’s supposed allies. Our government should hold them to task.

    A secular society is the ultimate protection against repression of minority groups. I think it is quite ironic that the Herald brings up the legitimate case of Pakistan’s dreadful blasphemy laws, whilst constantly criticizing the secularization of this country.

    America, one of the very most Christian nations today, with around 80% affiliating as Christians, and many more weekly Church attendees, has strict rules on separation of Church and State. With separation of Church and state comes religious freedom, freedom from persecution and freedom from state interference in Church issues. We should welcome and not fear this.

  • Dcruz

    Muslim countries have become very intolerant to other religions and now even among the sects within islam.Killing in the name of religion is common and the killer shouts Allah- O Akbar (Which means God is the greatest.)

  • ms catholic state

    Rubbish…..secular societies are colluding against Christianity and protecting and promoting Islam.

  • ms catholic state

    God help the Christians of Pakistan……what hope do they have?! Their treatment is disgusting.

  • ms catholic state

    I mean ‘secular’ governments!

  • Anonymous

    There are many peaceful Muslim countries, Turkey is one such place that I have visited personally and there is little religious friction compared to elsewhere.

    There definitely is a problem with religious conflict in Islam, the origins of it however are not I would argue, in the nature of the religion itself. Extremism can habour itself in any religion, Christians were quite the terrorists during the crusades after all. The violence in Ireland shows that two different sects of Christianity can resort to violence.

    Part of the problem is that Islam has traditionally been entwined with politics and governance, whereas most western countries broke with the rule of the Church and the feudal system many hundreds of years ago. The power of the Islamic religion even in ‘democracies’ today is still very great.

    Secular government, that favours no religion, and therefore protect the rights of minority religions is the best way to protect Catholics and other Christians.

  • Anonymous

    Too much respect is shown towards Islam in terms of practices we don’t agree with.
    Politicians do not want to be seen as racist or as crushing a minority group, they tread (too) softly in order not to create outcry.

    I can’t see ‘promotion’ of Islam, rather too much tolerance of practices society at large disagrees with. We should bear in mind that laws such as the equality and diversity act which the Church did not agree with also affects Muslims in the same respect, in that homosexuality is also thought of as wrong.

  • Anonymous

    I am in favour of a secular government, not a secular society. These are two very different things.

  • ms catholic state

    Large scale Islamic immigration is promotion of Islam……and all that goes with it……including eventual Islamisation of the West. Especially when coupled with shrinking Western populations. It’s like a vast clear out and replacement with new stock. That’s what secular government does for you. Nice eh?!

  • ms catholic state

    That doesn’t make sense. If you have a religious population……in a democracy you will have a government that reflects that populations beliefs. That’s not a secular government.

  • Anonymous

    We have a secular government that has just put a cap on immigration. Anti-immigration parties such as UKIP are more successful then they have ever been. The government is still a secular body for the most part.

  • Dcruz

    This was expected without any doubt.

  • Dcruz

    The result for such immigration will eventually lead to disaster just like any other muslim country around the globe or countries with large muslim minotities

  • Dcruz

    We should not bring up the past as christians had to take such measures to protect their own civilization. Turkey look moderate but when one goes deep it is not all that moderate and one cannot gauge this when on a short visit.The religious minorites in Turkey are discriminated and even persecuted. One forgot of the 2 catholic priest murdered and churches not being allowed to be used.St Sophia church used as a misuem.Lets face facts

  • Dcruz

    This is more for appeasement of muslim state to get large contracts for oil and trade.My personal opinion is that the western countries are not inclined to favour the faith but are just more tolerant than some muslim states.Any way one cannot stop anyone from going to any country as they are likely to find some ways to enter.

  • Dcruz

    Allah is really helping muslim state and one can read from the media reports ,more are dying in violence

  • GFFM

    The real issue here is the deafening and scandalous silence on the part of Western governments over the Taseer and Bhatti assasinations and now this. In the United States we have a law called the International Freedom of Religion Act of 1998 signed into law by President Clinton. It’s a law with teeth in which the president has a great number of tools to use against governments who commit grave oppression against religious minorities. So far our president has failed miserably. He just now has appointed a quite lack luster Ambassador at large for religious freedom–which is required by the law. It seems Sarkozy of France is really the only one to speak out about the state crimes against Christians. Just out yesterday is the new report by AID to the Church in Need which delineates the precipitous escalation of religious violence against Christians especially throughout the world.

  • Dorfle

    Actually Britian is helping muslim state at tune of half a billion pounds a year and perhaps this should stop.