MULTAN: A senior lawyer representing a blasphemy accused on Thursday submitted an application with the District Bar Association president, saying he was threatened by two lawyers and two other persons who asked him not to appear in the case.

Advocate Rashid Rehman Khan of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has conveyed to District Bar Association President Sher Zaman Qureshi that, on April 9, he and Advocate Allah Dad Khan (both members of the DBA) appeared in the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Shahbaz Ali Paracha in the Central Jail as counsel for Junaid Hafiz, a blasphemy accused.

Inside the jail, before and during the hearing, both of them were intimidated and threatened by a group including lawyers and others who were there without authorisation, Khan said. He said at one point during the arguments a lawyer appearing on behalf of the public prosecutor and another man advanced towards him. The lawyer, according to Khan, asked him to keep quiet “otherwise you will not come” to next hearing.

Two other people including a lawyer repeated the same threat. He said he immediately made an oral complaint to the judge, in whose presence the intimidation had taken place.“These circumstances (have) forced me to bring all the (details of the) offence in (your) notice,” Khan said in his letter to the bar president, adding that if something happened to him, the responsibility would rest with Zulfiqar Ali Sindhu, Sajjad Ahmad Chawan (both lawyers), with Ayoub Mughal and fourth man whose identity could be established from jail record.

Junaid Hafiz was charged under section 295-C and 295-B on March 13, 2013. The next hearing is fixed for April 17.

HRCP concerned: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced serious concern over the threats extended to Mr Khan.

“The difficulty the accused has had in finding and retaining a lawyer is well known. HRCP views that as a systematic denial of legal representation to the accused,” a statement issued on Thursday said.

“HRCP believes that no one except bigots have an interest in the accused going unrepresented…If this charade continues for much longer HRCP will have no qualms in concluding that it has been decided that the accused would not be allowed legal representation and there is no need to bother with a trial anymore.”

HRCP demanded that the persons who threatened the lawyers in the case “are proceeded against under the law without delay and effective measures are taken to ensure the defence lawyer’s security.”

DBA President Sher Zaman Qureshi confirmed that he had received the application from Advocate Rashid Rehman Khan. He said keeping in view the sensitivity of the issue he had decided to put the matter before the executive committee of the bar which would be convened shortly.

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