Family plea for blasphemy OAP shot in Pakistan

Mohammad Asghar was apparently targeted by a prison guard at a prison in Rawalpindi. Picture: Contributed
Mohammad Asghar was apparently targeted by a prison guard at a prison in Rawalpindi. Picture: Contributed
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THE family of a businessman facing the death penalty in Pak­istan has said that there “is no safe haven” for him in prison.

Mohammad Asghar, 70, from Edinburgh, was shot by a prison guard on Thursday while being held on death row for blasphemy in Adiala jail, Rawalpindi.

He is recovering in hospital in a “reasonably stable” condition.

His son and daughter yesterday said the attack was their “worst nightmare come true”. They now fear there could be further attempts on his life and have pleaded with David Cameron to intervene.

Last night, a Foreign Office spokesman said it had “raised concerns with local authorities”.

Mr Asghar, 70, who has severe mental illness, was arrested for blasphemy in 2010. A tenant of a property he owned gave letters allegedly written by him to the authorities, in which he claimed to be a prophet.

At a press conference in Glasgow yesterday, the family’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said expert evidence – showing the father-of-five suffers severe paranoid schizophrenia – was not allowed to be presented in Lahore High Court during an appeal against his sentence.

Describing the shooting, Mr Anwar said Mr Asghar had been lying in bed in his cell on Thursday morning when he heard a commotion. “He was shot as he turned around to see what was happening. He was lying down on his bed and he said the bullet hit him in the back,” he said.

The alleged gunman, Constable Mohammad Yousuf, fired at him again but missed. Yousuf was restrained by guards and has since been arrested and charged.

Mr Asghar was taken to hospital before being moved to intensive care. Mr Anwar said the hospital was “extremely underfunded and derelict”.

Lawyers for Mr Asghar in Pakistan were said to be “seriously concerned” about the quality of treatment he is receiving.

Mr Anwar said that while he was conscious, Mr Asghar’s mental health had rapidly deteriorated and he was still in shock.

The governor of Punjab – the former Labour MP Mohammed Sarwar – and the Pakistan government have the power to suspend the death sentence on medical grounds, said Mr Anwar.

Jasmine Rana, 40, Mr Asghar’s daughter, appealed to David Cameron to intervene to help.

She said: “He has been in prison for four years and is being punished because he is sick. The British government cannot stand by and let this continue. Our dad needs help now.”

Mr Anwar added “The Asghar family will hold David Cameron personally responsible if Mr Asghar were to die.”

He also said justice secretary Kenny MacAskill confirmed the Scottish Government would agree to Mr Asghar being transferred to Scotland.

Ms Rana described her father as a millionaire with a raft of businesses, including cash-and-carry supermarkets. She said he used his wealth to help the poor in Pakistan. Ms Rana also said her father had owned a brickyard that supplied the materials to build the prison in which he was held.


Family’s fury after Scot shot in Pakistani jail