Pakistan acquits 'insane man' accused of blasphemy

Thursday, October 19, 2006

By Sheraz Khurram Khan
Special Correspondent for ASSIST News Service in Pakistan

RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Pakistan has released a psychiatrically disordered man who was accused of setting alight some pages of Quran, the Muslims holy book last year, ANS has learnt.

Additional Sessions Judge Chuadhry Imtiaz acquitted Sohail Masih on October 6, 2006.

The 26 year old mentally deranged man was accused of setting some pages of Quran on fire while sitting by fire that was lit on a heap of garbage in November last year.

According to the Police First Information Report (F.I.R.) one Khurram Kamran resident of Mohallah Raja Sultan alleged that he had witnessed Sohail burning pages of Quran on the night between November 9 and 10, 2005.

Police registered case against Sohail also a resident of Mohallah Raja Sulatan, Rawalpindi vide FIR No. 521/05 offence under section 295-B with police station B-Division, Rawalpindi.

Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) claimed in their news release they sent to ANS via email that they referred the case to Centre for Legal Aid and Assistance (CLAAS) who hired a lawyer, Malik Asif Toufiq Awan for Sohail.

“He (the lawyer) filed petition under section 265-K for the acquittal of Sohail Masih on medical grounds. The defense counsel also argued that there is no direct evidence against Sohail, The police did not conduct proper investigation in the case and registered the FIR on hearsay statement of the complainant”, said SLMP’s release.

“We would make arrangements for medical treatment of Sohail”, SLMP’s Sohail Johnson told ANS.

The family members of Sohail told ANS on October 16, Monday that they were subsisting on merely Rs 1500-1800 (US$ 25-30). This meager income comes from the earnings of Sohail’s father Pyara, 60 and mother Alice, 55 who do menial jobs earning half dollar a day by collecting and disposing of garbage.

Unveiling his ministry’s plans for steering the family out of their pathetic situation Sohail Johnson said they were contemplating to help family set up some cottage industry so that they could earn a dignified living.

“I am very happy for being among my family members and especially seeing my parents”, Sohail Pyara told SLMP.

Fearing trouble the family is now living at some other place in Rawalpindi after moving from Mohalla Raja Sultan where they would live before blasphemy charges were slapped on Sohail.