IN a society where the efforts of the high and mighty to seek top-level adjudication of their disputes gets much publicity, it is a relief that occasionally a plea by a common Pakistani trying to get the attention of the guardians of justice finds its way into the public debate. An example is the appeal attributed to the parents of a man who has been behind bars for six years as an undertrial in a blasphemy case. The appeal to the chief justice of Pakistan is brief, yet reflective of how such a sensitive matter and those linked to it can get stuck in the system. It speaks of all kinds of problems, the refusal to hear the case being a prime challenge. It alleges that delaying tactics have been used to deny justice to Junaid Hafeez, who was a lecturer of the Bahauddin Zakariya University when arrested in 2013. There is mention in the letter about how the prosecution had moved five “absurd” applications to prolong the trial. That the case is pending even three months after the last witness — a police officer — had testified is indeed a point that needs to be looked into.
The parents of Junaid Hafeez say the blasphemy case against him is false. And as they solicit the support of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa to end their long ordeal there is little else they can bank upon after this. This is certainly a controversial area but there are certain factors that need to be taken into account. The resolve of the judiciary, the ‘equal before the law’ stance of the prime minister and the willingness of the public at large to get to the bottom of pending cases in accordance with the law create room for all to assert their basic right to justice and a fair trial. Let all legal cases be taken to their logical conclusion without undue delay. All rules but most importantly the rule of law must extend to everyone without exception.
Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2019