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Junaid Hafeez was a Pakistani university lecturer and was accused (now convicted) of blasphemy under Pakistan’s broad blasphemy laws. Hafeez was arrested in 2013 and held in solitary confinement since 2014. Junaid’s first lawyer Mr. Rashid Rehman was shot to death on 8th May, 2014, in his office after armed men carrying automatic weapons broke into his office. His defense team was never provided a security despite Mr Rehman publicly spoke about threats.
Junaid Hafeez’s case is particularly symptomatic of the situation that afflicts Pakistan’s society & its criminal justice system. A widely respected academic with a stellar academic record. Junaid was a member of a number of Facebook groups discussing Pakistani society & politics. These groups included a closed group called “So Called Liberals of Pakistan”.
Some of the material posted on the page was interpreted by others as being provocative (not blasphemy) A complaint was registered against Mr. Hafeez for holding views that were claimed to defame Islam. The scary part is the complaint did not carry any specific material initially. Junaid was taken into custody, he was forced by police to provide details of access to his secret FB group. Content that was obtained by police was what is largely received wisdom in Pakistani society.
From a #privacy perspective, Junaid’s speech on a secret online forum was not available to the police until he was coerced under pressure to share it with them. There was no court order which required sharing or revealing of his private speech. It was never clear that content found on the secret Fb pages was written by Junaid. The prosecution made the case that Junaid was the admin of a number of Facebook pages that defamed Islam, thereby attributing guilt to Junaid & charged with, among other things blasphemy. “He shall be hanged by neck till his death subject to its confirmation”……
All for running few secret fb pages, for which the blasphemy content was produced as print out. So much for forensics.
In addition to PECA we all should be worried how existing laws are being misused to suppress sane voices online. Misuse of such laws serve the vested interests of opportunists & are only contrary to the Constitution of Pakistan. May you find justice in Higher courts Junaid.
(This was posted by Nighat Dad on her facebook profile and has been reproduced with permission).