By Nabeel Anwar Dhakku
CHAKWAL: A ‘blasphemy’ accused was sentenced to death and also to 10 years’ imprisonment on Monday, sources told Dawn.
Soofi Mohammad Ishaq of Talagang town had been facing the charge since 2009.
On Monday, an Additional Sessions Judge of Jhelum sentenced him to death and 10 years’ imprisonment and fined him Rs200,000.
Soofi Mohammad Ishaq was settled in United States where he worked as a cleric. He returned to Talagang in 2009 and was given a warm welcome by hundreds of his disciples. His followers also kissed his feet, but some people objected to the act of “bowing down before Ishaq” and later accused his followers of branding him a prophet.
Later, Ishaq’s rivals launched a campaign against him and a young man named Asadullah, allegedly at the behest of his Deobandi mentors, lodged a complaint at the Talagang police station. He accused Ishaq of committing blasphemy.
Police booked Ishaq under sections 295A and 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code and his case was heard by Chakwal’s Additional Sessions Judge Sajid Awan.
After completion of hearing, the judge set a date for announcing the judgment, but later he wrote a letter to the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench, informing it that he could not announce the verdict because of security risks. “Judge Sajid Awan pleaded to the LHC that as he is deputed in Chakwal, he cannot announce the verdict because of security risks and, therefore, the case should be referred to another district,” said Advocate Chaudhry Mehmood Akhtar, the counsel of the accused.
The LHC referred the case to Jhelum’s district and sessions judge, who marked the case to his subordinate Additional Sessions Judge Chaudhry Mumtaz Hussain, who announced the verdict on Friday.
Informed sources told Dawn that Soofi Ishaq had been appointed Gaddi Nasheen of the shrine of Pir Fazal Shah. This, according to sources, infuriated complainant Asadullah, who belonged to Pir Fazal Shah’s family, and he used the opportunity to register the blasphemy case against Ishaq.
“My client pleaded to the court that he cannot even think of committing blasphemy.” He told the court that he believed that the holy prophet (peace be upon him) was the last Messnger of Allah,” Advocate Chaudhry Akhtar Mehmood said.
When contacted by Dawn, Asadullah claimed to have seen followers of Ishaq bowing their heads before him and heard them chanting slogans of “Yaa Rasool Allah”. When asked why other religious leaders did not move against Ishaq, he said: “I was the first to see the way Ishaq’s followers behaved and I recorded it on my camera. And Allah has given me the courage to move against the blasphemer.”