Rashid Rehman shooting: Pakistan human rights lawyer who received 'death threats' over high-profile blasphemy case is shot dead
A Pakistani lawyer and activist who had complained about receiving death threats after he took on a controversial blasphemy case, has been shot dead by gunmen who stormed into his office.
Rashid Rehman was shot and killed by two men who entered his office at 8.30pm on Wednesday in the city of Multan and opened fire. Two others in the office were seriously injured by the gunmen, who then fled.
Mr Rehman, a well-known lawyer and a regional coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said he had been threatened after taking on the case of a university lecturer accused of blasphemy. At the first hearing of the case in March, held inside a prison for security reasons, Mr Rehman was apparently threatened by lawyers representing the complainant.
“He was a dedicated activist from the very beginning. All his life he was helping the downtrodden,” senior HRCP official Zamal Khan told The Independent. “He was fearless and never gave any time to the threats. He said he would live for the struggle and die for the struggle.”
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, introduced under British rule and then tightened during the years of military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, have become increasingly controversial. Campaigners say that the laws, which carry the death penalty, are routinely used to settle personal scores and grudges that have nothing to do with Islam.
While no one has ever been executed for blasphemy, several accused have been attacked and killed and lawyers and judges have been threatened. A recent report by a US government advisory panel said there were 14 people on death row in Pakistan and 19 others serving life sentences for insulting Islam.
Among those on death row is a 70-year-old British citizen, Muhammad Asghar, who was sentenced in January after being convicted of claiming he was a prophet. His lawyers and family said he has been suffering from mental health issues for several years.
Efforts to reform the laws by Pakistan’s previous government were scrapped in the aftermath of the murder in January 2011 of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, where Multan is located, who had spoken about the misuse of the laws and the need to reform them.
Mr Rehman, who had a family, took on the case of Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Multan’s Bahauddin Zakariya University who was accused of defaming the prophet Mohammed on social media last year. Reports said the accusations were levelled by hardline students who pushed for him to be charged.
Apparently no one was wiling to take on Mr Hafeez’s defence until Mr Rehman stepped forward. After the hearing in March, when he was allegedly threatened, the HRCP issued a statement which said: “During the hearing the lawyers of the complainant told Rehman that he wouldn’t be present at the next hearing as he would not be alive.”
The HRCP said that Mr Rehman was threatened in the presence of the judge but that the court took no action. After the incident, Mr Rehman complained to the District Bar Association.
Mr Rehman’s colleague, Mr Khan, said the lawyer had also complained to the police but that they had taken no action. “They were totally indifferent.”
Mr Rehman’s funeral service is due to be held in Multan on Thursday afternoon.
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, GAME, PC World and Argos
Miss Honduras Maria Jose Alvarado's stylist Luis Alfredo Garcia is found stabbed to death
Sean Abbott: Messages of support flood in for bowler following death of batsman Phil Hughes
Kim Jong-un proves 'in dire need of allies' within his own government as younger sister appointed to senior role
Dr Lam Hoe Yeoh: Voyeur doctor jailed for eight years after using network of hidden cameras to film patients, colleagues and friends on the toilet
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Ed Miliband's 'north London set' must be demolished to save Labour, say critics
Green Party Caroline Lucas interview: 'We could be on the edge of something very big'
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...