London: (Hannah Chowdhry) Fears that Zafar Bhatti (55 yrs), Pakistan’s longest serving blasphemy convict could be the first ever to be lynched heightened after a judge increased his sentence from life imprisonment to death on 3rd January 2022 (click here)
Judge Sahibzada Naqeeb Shehzad, of Sessions Court Rawalpindi made this ruling despite clear physical and electronic evidence of the innocence of Zafar Bhatti.
No forensic evidence exists for any blasphemy by Zafar Bhatti, in fact every piece of physical and electronic evidence suggests he is innocent. Zafar Bhatti however was convicted based on an unsubstantiated report declaring his guilt, made by police in the early stages of their investigation. During that investigation Zafar Bhatti states he was coerced into a false investigation under a brutal police interrogation.
Zafar Bhatti could still be killed any day under the terms of his blasphemy conviction under Section 295C of the Blasphemy law of Pakistan. Read more (here).
On 30th April, Nawab Bibi called our Operations Manager and expressed her sense of deep loneliness and the pain that she could not visit Zafar Bhatti in Jail because of Eid holidays.
“ Yesterday I met with Bhatti and he informed me that I could not visit him in the jail due to limited staff being at the prison, while many visited their homes."
As she was crying on the phone, she asked if she could spend some days with the families of our employees.
That same night, our operations Manager and one of our field officers travelled 380km and collected Nawab Bibi and took her to their homes in Lahore.
Nawab stayed at the homes of our officers for 10 days and was met Pastors who prayed and and she even attended a local church on Sunday.
On the night of 11th May our BACA Team travelled back to Rawalpindi, stayed overnight at Nawab Bibi's home and then travelled to Adiala Jail the following morning (Thursday 12th May).
Nawab Bibi and our officers supplied Zafar Bhatti with his monthly groceries, money for insulin to control blood sugar levels and toiletries.
It was heart wrenching to find that Bhatti’s medical condition is really bad. His left leg is swollen from his feet up to the top of his thigh, and eyesight has weakened significantly.
Zafar was happy to see Nawab Bibi and our officers visiting him in prison. He extended his hands out of the bars of the visiting area and held the hands of Nawab Bibi tightly. Tears fell from his eyes and Nawab Bibi’s overcome with emotion also wept.
Thinking that Zafar might have been upset that she had not visited him last week, she said:
“Zafar what’s wrong?
"Why you crying I was just away for one week only and you yourself gave me permission to go to Lahore.”
“Nawab I am happy to see you are fine but missed you a lot and I'm afraid my health is worsening."
Zafar Bhatti then informed Nawab Bibi and our officers that on Tuesday, prison medical staff had given him a series of tablets for diabetes and then suffered abdominal pain and vomited with traces of blood. When his health condition worsened the doctors came to his cell and examined him and gave him different medicine which stopped the abdominal pains and vomiting with blood. But now he has huge swelling in his left leg, from his feet to the top of his thigh.
We undertook a cursory search on the internet for reasons for the blood in Zafar's vomit after taking medication provided by prison medical staff. We discovered it could be one of many reasons including Diabetic Ketoacidosis, Gastroparesis or related to the medicine he took (learn more here). Prison doctors refuse to speak to our team members or our solicitor, but we will be calling for an official statement via the courts.
Zafar was not able to provide details of the medicine that was first administered to him, and said:
“The doctors took away the pill packaging from me after the incident.
"I think they are protecting themselves after a misdiagnosis or incorrect medicinal treatment course decided for me."
Zafar Bhatti has requested that BACA and our supporters around the world pray for his health and his release from the jail.
Zafar spoke to our operations manager, he said:
“I am thankful to you for taking care of Nawab and for bringing her to me every Thursday
"In the lonely confinement of this jail knowing she will be there every week is comforting.
"I collect the words and sentences I intend to share with her during the whole week.
"The time of her visits is so short and I try to squeeze it all in.
"I also thank you for the time you spend sharing the Gospel and praying with me."
It should be noted that when they visit both officers ensure that Nawab and Zafar have plenty of private time. From all accounts we have heard the couple are as strong as ever in their marriage and devotion to one another, despite the cruelty of Pakistan's judicial system.
“Please take care of her, she has grown old and I know she is not telling me all the difficulties she is going through.
"She is a brave strong woman and I thank God that he brought her into my life.”
Nawab Bibi was extremely shocked to see Bhatti in such a miserable condition and was deeply affected by it.
Throughout the journey home from Adiala jail, she kept crying with deep concern about Zafar's health. She has pleading with BACA to do more to help him get free of his cell.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
"It is disheartening to see this extremely loving couple separated from one another due to failings of the state.
"Zafar is innocent of a crime, not one shred of forensic evidence exists linking him to the alleged blasphemy he is incarcerated for.
"Yet he has almost spent 10 years in prison and faces a death sentence.
"Zafar, is being denied bail on health grounds despite palpable health concerns.
"The notorious blasphemy laws are evidently being used as a tool for discrimination against a Christian Pastor."
"Even then Britain and the US continue to give aid to a nation with tangible concerns, regarding one of the worst human rights records on the planet.
"Zafar's dying wish is live out a few years with his wife before his health fails him.
"But it seems the cruel and brutal incarceration he has been subjected to may take his life away, before the noose gets an opportunity.
"If Zafar dies in prison, will Britain and the US finally concede that money given to Pakistan has served little purpose and terminate all foreign aid to them?
"I sincerely hope so."
British Asian Christian Association, continues to support Zafar Bhatti and his wife while they suffer the ignominy of this unwarranted blasphemy conviction. It costs us close to £500 a month to pay the rent for Nawab's home near Adiala Jail, while her family care for her home in Karachi. We are also currently speaking with Saif Ul Malook and hope to get him to take over this difficult legal case, following success in releasing Asia Bibi (click here) after we covered his fees for the family