Two men acquitted of burning Pakistani Christian couple aliveRead more
Status: In prison
Zafar Bhatti, a pastor from Adiala Central in Rawalpindi, was imprisoned in July 2012 after
being accused of sending blasphemous text messages – a charge he denies, stating that the
phone in question had never been in his possession.
Bhatti used to go door-to-door, selling medicine, reading bible verses and praying with
families. He also started a small charity, called Jesus World Mission, to assist the poor.
However, many Muslims in his community were upset about how quickly Bhatti’s church
and ministry were growing.
In July 2012, the local Islamic leader Ahmed Khan, of the Islamic organisation Jamat Ahle-
Sunnat, filed a complaint against Bhatti, claiming he had sent blasphemous messages about
the Prophet’s mother.
Khan threatened to take matters into his own hands unless an investigation was opened under
Section 295-C of the Penal Code, which carries a death sentence, even though insults towards
the Prophet’s mother fall under Section 295-A, which does not carry the death penalty.
Bhatti was subsequently arrested and charged under Section 295-C. The police tortured him
to try and obtain a confession, but Bhatti maintained his innocence.
The phone in question was later found to be registered to Ghazala Khan, who was arrested in
November 2012 and charged with blasphemy. At her trial in 2013, Justice Khalid Mehmood,
of Lahore High Court, refused to pass judgement and instead tried to convince petitioner
Ahmed Khan to forgive Ghazala Khan. However, Ghazala claimed she was innocent and did
not want to be forgiven. The judge showed leniency and she was granted bail.
Despite all of this, Bhatti was sentenced in May 2017 to life imprisonment, albeit the death
sentence was withdrawn due to a lack of evidence.
While in prison, Bhatti has been beaten many times and forced to convert to Islam. In 2013,
his food was poisoned leaving him fighting for his life.