Pak lawyer pays price for defending blasphemy accused

  • AFP, Lahore
  • Updated: Dec 04, 2014 21:22 IST

Gunmen opened fire at the residence of a Pakistani lawyer defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy and dropped a letter warning him to withdraw from the case, police said Thursday.

Shahbaz Gormani escaped unhurt after gunmen riding motorbikes attacked his residence in the central city of Multan late Wednesday.

Gormani had been appointed defence lawyer in the case after gunmen shot dead Rashid Rehman, a defence counsel for Junaid Hafeez in May.

Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University, was accused of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in March last year.

Hafeez was known at the university for his liberal views and the blasphemy case was registered after pressure from right-wing student groups.

"Gunmen riding motorbikes fired indiscriminately outside the residence of Gormani and threw a pamphlet... warning him of serious consequences if he continues to pursue the case," senior police official Muhammad Salim told AFP.

"We are investigating the incident," he added.

Another police official Muhammad Akram confirmed the incident.

Gormani told AFP he survived the incident but demanded that the parliament enact laws to protect lawyers representing people accused of blasphemy.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the majority Muslim country, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence.

Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy and has had a de-facto moratorium on civilian executions since 2008.

But anyone convicted, or even just accused, of insulting Islam, risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

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