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Blasphemy case against cleric: Prosecution witnesses backtrack

By: Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: Three prosecution witnesses in the blasphemy case on Monday backtracked from their earlier statements in which they had accused the prayer leader of a mosque of altering the evidence against a Christian girl.

The Christian girl was arrested in August but after recording the statements of some prosecution witnesses the police rounded up Khalid Jadoon, the prayer leader of Mehra Jaffer mosque, in September for allegedly altering the evidence. And after preliminary investigation, he was declared the main accused in the first challan submitted to the sessions court.

On Monday, when District and Sessions Judge (west) Raja Jawwad Abbas Hassan resumed hearing of the post-arrest bail application of Khalid Jadoon, his counsel Syed Wajid Ali Gillani contended that the Ramna police had submitted false statements of three witnesses – Qari Owais, Khurram Shehzad and Danish – against his client. He said the witnesses had never uttered even a single word against the cleric.

The police had recorded the statements of Owais, Shahzad and Danish under section 161 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in which they had endorsed the statement of Hafiz Zubair, another witness in the case.

Zubair in his statement recorded before the judicial magistrate had stated that Mr Jadoon deliberately inserted two pages of the holy Quran in a bag containing ashes and burnt pages from a prayer book brought to him by a young man who claimed that the Christian girl had burnt the pages.

Police arrested Mr Jadoon on September 1 after a member of the Mehra Jaffer mosque accused him of stuffing the pages from the holy book into the bag to make it appear that the Christian girl had burnt them.

Advocate Gillani submitted the affidavits of the three witnesses as well as that of four our prosecution witnesses – Malik Ummad, the accuser; Malik Amjad, Tasleem Akhtar and Mehreen Noor – in support of the cleric who is detained in the Adiala Jail for allegedly desecrating the holy Quran.

After hearing the preliminary arguments, the judge issued notices to the state and adjourned the matter for October 3.

Legal experts could not say what turn the trial will now take. Rao Abdul Rahim, the counsel for Malik Ummad, told Dawn that the development had weakened the case against the cleric. He said the case was moving towards its old direction, because if the cleric is exonerated from the charge, the Christian girl would have to face the trial.

Advocate Saleemullah Khan, a retired inspector general of police, added: “The blasphemy case against the Christian girl as well as the cleric was already weak and it is very difficult for the prosecution to prove the allegations against both the accused.”
He said the statements of the three witnesses were recorded under section 161 of CrPC, and under this section a statement does not bear the signature of a witness rather the investigation officer himself signs the papers.

As far as the statement of Hafiz Zubair is concerned, which was recorded by the magistrate under section 164 of CrPC, it would not be exhibited unless he too is cross-examined by the defence counsel, he added.

Sub-Inspector Munir Hussain Jaffery, the investigation officer of the case, told Dawn that there was still a good case against the blasphemy accused.

“The statement of star witness Hafiz Zubair is still intact and enough to prove the prosecution case,” he claimed.

“The police would also deal with the witnesses who misled the investigation and provided false information on the basis of which we recorded their statements under section 161 of CrPC,” he added. Meanwhile, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman extended the restraining order against the trial of the Christian girl till October 17 as the counsel for the complainant could not appear in the court.