DR. SHAIKH’S LIFE IN DANGER
Dr. Younus Shaikh, rationalist and founder-President of the Pakistan based organization Enlightenment, was arrested without arrest warrant by Islamabad police on 4 October 2000. He was booked under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for blasphemy.
Dr. Shaikh is a 45 years old medical doctor and worked as a lecturer in a medical college in Islamabad. The blasphemy accusation against him was based on a statement, which he allegedly made in one of his lectures while answering some questions raised by the students. He was accused of defying the Prophet Mohammed by stating that the Prophet did not become a Muslim till the age of 40 (i.e. until he received the first message from God) and the Prophet’s parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam existed. The FIR was registered in Islamabad’s Margalla police station by one Maulana Abdur Rafoof. Informer was a fanatic student of Dr. Shaikh with the name Muhammed Ansgar Ali Khan. None of the "witnesses" had personally attended Dr. Shaikh's lecture.
According to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, police can arrest an accused without obtaining a warrant of a judicial magistrate. After his arrest, Dr. Shaikh was kept for 15 days in police custody. There were reports that his reading glasses were broken, leaving him in a state of helplessness. On 19 October 2000, he was presented in the court. He had no lawyer, since most of the lawyers in Pakistan don’t dare to appear in blasphemy cases for fear of becoming target of fundamentalists themselves. In the court room, an aggressive group of about 20 clerics of the Islamic fundamentalist organization Majlis-I-Khatam-I-Nabuwat were present and tried to exert pressure.
"Dr. Shaikh's life in danger", we reported on 20 October in Rationalist International Bulletin # 52 and called for the first time upon our readers to write letters to General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan asking for his intervention to release Dr. Shaikh. In Pakistan, blasphemy-accused are not only facing death penalty, if found guilty, but even without a verdict, they are in permanent danger to be killed by a fanatic mob, as it has happened in many cases.
Since the the arrest, Dr. Shaikh has been held in judicial remand in Adyala Jail, Rawalpindi under primitive and humilating conditions. He was cut off all his contacts. Only close family members and some Human Rights activists could contact him in the jail. Rationalist International established trusted contacts in Pakistan and is in close communication with activists in Pakistan who are in contact with the government and the court. The letter campaign initiated by Rationalist International mobilized hundreds of letters to General Musharraf.