Blasphemy charges: Are all the cases probed thoroughly?

SHAFAQNA – The Supreme Court on Thursday granted the bail plea of a woman who had been incarcerated for three-and-a-half years under blasphemy charges.A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, granted bail to Waliha Irfat – currently incarcerated at the Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore – with directions to submit bail bonds worth Rs25,000, on an appeal against an Aug 28 Lahore High Court verdict rejecting a similar plea.Rights activist Asma Jahangir represented Ms Irfat before the apex court and argued that she be granted bail until the case was concluded. Waliha Irfat was arrested for allegedly burning the Holy Quran at her home in 2012 and was booked under Section 295-B. However, the contours of the case further expose how fickle and farcical our law enforcement and judicial system become when faced with a possible case of blasphemy. For instance, both the main complainant and the state’s main prosecution witness in the case have repeatedly confirmed in their statements and sworn affidavits that they did not in fact see the alleged act. The main complainant, a security guard, merely saw a woman crying at a bus station and upon inquiry was told that the woman’s neighbour — i.e. Ms. Irfat — had burned a copy of the Quran. Upon hearing this, the man went ahead and registered an FIR on the basis of nothing more than hearsay and as a consequence a woman has been robbed of three years of her life. The case highlights how frighteningly simple it is for someone to be made victim of either a charged mob or a victim of miscarriage of justice based on nothing more than insinuations of having committed blasphemy. The concept of ‘innocent until proved guilty’ is thrown out of the window and basic investigative methods are duly forgotten. The police justify their shirking of duty to properly scrutinize the alleged crime because they spin arresting an accused person as akin to saving his or her life.

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