After Nine Years in a Pakistan Prison for Blasphemy, Free at Last

Mohammad Mansha (58) is a happy man today. The Punjab resident is home after serving the last nine years in prison on a life sentence blasphemy conviction on a charge that Mansha had desecrated a copy of the Quran. In late December 2017, a two-judge panel ruled that Mansha was falsely accused.

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Shutterstock: by Asianet-Pakistan

In 2008, based on a complaint made by Hafiz Muhammad Munir, imam of the mosque in the Bahawalnagar district, Mansha was taken before a village council where he was badly beaten and then remanded to the police for arrest. A Punjab judge sentenced him to life in prison in 2009.

In the original hearing, Mansha could not afford an attorney so one was appointed for him. In the recent hearing, however, he received proper representation from a defense attorney who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. His defense pointed out that Mansha’s accuser, Akhtar Muhammad, suffered from hearing and speech impairments and the evidence provided had no legal value under Pakistan’s Evidence Act.

Abdul Waheed, prosecutor in the case, said the police investigation of Mansha was “faulty” and that there was no scientific evidence against him.

Zia Awan, head of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Assistance, lauded the supreme court’s verdict in Mansha’s case but said the court should have compensated him for his years behind bars on false charges. Awan added that it is time for Pakistan’s parliament to “carefully look into” the country’s blasphemy law and finds the means to curb its misuse or exploitation.

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