Family disowns former blasphemy accused but not his wealth

Published July 15, 2015
Dr Sheikh was accused of authoring books in 2001 with alleged blasphemous content. —Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan
Dr Sheikh was accused of authoring books in 2001 with alleged blasphemous content. —Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan

ISLAMABAD: The family of a wealthy old man, accused and later acquitted of blasphemy charges, has approached a civil court of Rawalpindi, seeking ownership of Rs127 million worth of saving and income certificates.

Seventy-year-old Dr Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh was booked for blasphemy in December 2012 after a complaint was lodged against him by his nephew Usman Rashid Sheikh, at the Industrial Area Police Station. Dr Sheikh was accused of authoring books in 2001 with alleged blasphemous content.

Before his nephew lodged the complaint, Dr Sheikh had reportedly served a Rs5 billion notice to his nephew in a civil matter. Additional district and sessions judge Rafaqat Awan acquitted Dr Sheikh on February 2, 2013 from the blasphemy charges.

Following the acquittal, Dr Sheikh along with his family members sought asylum in the United States citing threat to his life as the reason, but his asylum case was not finalised as his children refused to go with him.

His wife, two daughters and son have now petitioned before the civil court in Rawalpindi, seeking ownership of saving and income certificates worth Rs127 million. According to the petition, Dr Sheikh is a millionaire with “different properties, cash deposits in foreign banks in US and UAE, and he owns regular income certificates and special saving certificates under his name”.

The petition claimed that since his children and wife do not agree with Dr Sheikh’s opinions, they refused to seek asylum with him anywhere as this would be akin to supporting his past blasphemous views.

Wife and children file suit claiming ownership of saving and income certificates

According to the petition, their father “out of love and affection for the plaintiffs” (the family) had gifted Rs127 million worth of saving and income certificates to his family before leaving for the United States in July 2013.

But the petition alleged that in 2015, Dr Sheikh “attempted to compel the plaintiffs to follow his misconceived, blasphemous and apostate ideology. The plaintiffs reminded him of the repentance and remorse which he had after the registration of a blasphemy case against him but he had made it clear to the plaintiffs that it was only temporary as his life and liberty were under threat. Otherwise, his books and his ideology is the same and his misguiding, blasphemous, apostate and anti-Islamic books are once again ready for publication in foreign countries”.

The petitioners alleged that their father had planned to transfer the income and saving certificates to the family members but did not do so “as punishment for not following his apostate religious views”.

Dr Sheikh had filed a suit in the civil court of Rawalpindi on June 19, 2015, against one of his daughters, stating that she is not the real owner of the certificates. He petitioned before the court that the documents of ownership shown by his family members are forged and he never gave the certificates as a gift.

The petition requested the court to pass a decree in favour of the family members and to restrain Dr Sheikh from transferring the said certificates to a third party.

When Dawn contacted the counsel for the plaintiffs in the recent case Advocate Saeed Khurshid Ahmed, he said that his children and wife have a right to the man’s property. And since the certificates had been presented as a gift from Dr Sheikh, he could no longer claim ownership of the certificates. He said the family dissociated from Dr Sheikh’s anti-Islamic ideology and refused to settle with him abroad.

On the other hand, a human rights activist Zuhra Yousaf said a majority of blasphemy cases are motivated by personal grudges.

She said often blasphemy sections of the law are invoked to settle personal scores.

“The life of the accused is endangered when such an allegation is made,” she said.

Ms Yousaf added that the district administration is required to provide security to Dr Sheikh as his life is at risk.

Published in Dawn ,July 15th, 2015

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