Mohammad Asghar attack: Scandalous lapses like this are part of a trend

This is not the first time that a policeman has turned his gun on someone accused of blasphemy

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The Independent Online

The Adiala jail in Rawalpindi is supposedly famed for its high security. On a visit there, in February, The Independent was walked through an elaborate series of security checks, including metal detectors, identity checks, and an entry stamp.

The jail has been home to high-profile guests, including two former Pakistani prime ministers. It is scandalous that a policeman managed to smuggle his weapon inside the jail and wounded a 70-year-old Briton suffering from schizophrenia.

The man, Mohammad Asghar, was being kept in a cell all to himself, the deputy superintendent said. This was supposed to protect him from other prisoners who wished to harm him. Such precautions prove useless when a policeman can abuse the authority of his uniform and forcibly enter a cell.

This is not the first time that a policeman has turned his gun on someone accused of blasphemy. Adiala jail’s most famous prisoner is Mumtaz Qadri, the man who was supposed to be guarding Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, when he shot him dead with 27 rounds in January 2011 for defending a Christian woman dubiously convicted of blasphemy.

Qadri is now reportedly treated like a celebrity. Crowds ritually turn up outside Adiala to wail for his release. Inside, awaiting an appeal, he seems to be kept behind bars reluctantly.

When it comes to the inflammatory charge of blasphemy, Pakistani authorities start to draw a distinction between what they believe to be the law of the land and what they believe to be the law of God. The police routinely stand back when mobs attack vulnerable religious minorities accused of the offence.

This breeds fear elsewhere. Politicians are terrified of condemning those who attack people accused of blasphemy, however thin the evidence. And judges are scarcely willing to convict even those who advertise their murderous guilt.

Unless the Pakistani state draws a clear line and stands up for those falsely accused, such tragedies will sadly continue.