Appeal for a victim of the blasphemy law

This letter in Daily Times is an appeal for the release of Professor Zahid Hussain Mirza who has been in detention since June 1999 after he was accused of blasphemy for writing an academic book on Islam:

Human rights violation

Sir: I would like to draw your attention towards the severe violation of human rights in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir. My friend’s father, Professor Zahid Hussain Mirza, was arrested under Section 295-C (Blasphemy Law) in Mirpur in June 1999. The case was filed against him nearly six years ago by a cleric with the help of some fundamentalist groups on the false charges of writing a book, Status of Prophethood: Concept of Islam and Jahilliat. Professor Mirza is accused of blasphemy. The aforementioned book has been declared as correct in all respects by more than 100 theologians and scholars of the Muslim world. Some of these scholars include the Imam of Ka’aba and scholars of the Muslim World League, Rabita Alam-i-Islami.

The prosecution could not produce more than one witness in this case, whereas more than 20 prominent theologians and scholars have appeared in court as witnesses in support of Professor Mirza’s case. In spite of all this, Professor Mirza has not been granted bail. Furthermore, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer nine months ago. After a major operation and chemotherapy, doctors have advised a six-week course of radiotherapy. However, this facility is not available at the hospital where Professor Mirza was admitted in Mirpur. To date there has been a delay of 12 weeks in crucial life-saving therapy and yet no decision for allowing further treatment has been made by the administration.

The case proceedings are on hold due to Professor Mirza’s illness. The sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan is the death penalty. Either way his fate is sealed.

I request President Zardari, the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and all other authorities concerned to end this case as soon as possible to save the life of an innocent man.

Here is a more detailed appeal from 2004 by Amnesty International for the same prisoner. Some key points from this report:

1. The book for which Professor Mirza was accused of blasphemy for has been cleared by various Islamic authorities and has even been reprinted by the government of Pakistan proving that the original accusation of blasphemy by a local cleric was completely false. And yet almost 11 years later, Professor Mirza is still in jail.

2. His bail application has been rejected by the Session court in Mirpur in August 1999, by the Shariah Court and by the Supreme Court in 2004.

3. Professor Mirza has been diagnosed with stomach cancer while under detention and when his family visited him in the hospital he was chained to the hospital bed for two weeks.

4. Amnesty International is calling for all charges to be dropped against him.



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