By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Christian rights activists feared for their lives Thursday, May 8, after officials confirmed that gunmen posing as clients shot dead a prominent human rights lawyer defending a professor accused of blasphemy against Islam.
Wednesday’s killing of Rashid Rehman in the southern city Multan marked the first time a lawyer has been killed for taking on a blasphemy case, police said.
The attack by suspected Islamic militants underscored the danger facing those trying to put an end to religious intolerance in majority-Muslim Pakistan, said Sardar Mushtaq Gill, director of Pakistan-based Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).
“LEAD and its staff, who have been under threats [from militants] strongly condemn the killing of Rashid Rehman,” he told BosNewsLife.
“We also do not know when and when we will be killed due to our human rights work in Pakistan. Such deadly and threatening incidents will not discourage us to continue our human rights work,” he added.
Rehman had been representing Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer in English accused by hardline student groups of making blasphemous remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in March last year.
Hafeez had been in prison without being able to find a lawyer until Rehman agreed to represent him in February, trial observers said.
Blasphemy carries the death penalty in Pakistan. The accused are often lynched or languish for years in jail without trial because lawyers are too afraid to defend them, Gill confirmed.
Rehman and a junior lawyer and an assistant were sitting in their office near Kutchery Square “when unknown armed gunmen entered their chamber and fired, injuring Rehman and two others,” he added.
Regman was reportedly shot five times. “The injured were rushed to Nishtar Hospital where doctors Pronounced Rashid Rehman dead upon arrival while the two wounded were receiving treatment,” Gill said.
Gill was not surprised about the attack.
He said Rehman, who was also a coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Multan, had last month been threatened inside a courtroom in the
Multan Central Jail and on five other occasions.
Judges have previously been attacked in Pakistan for acquitting blasphemy defendants and two politicians who discussed reforming the law were shot dead.
Rights groups say the blasphemy laws are increasingly used to seize money or property.
(BosNewsLife (2004-2014) is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians. It has been ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since May 2004).
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