The Pakistani judge who imposed a death sentence on the assassin of Punjab governor Salman Taseer has gone underground due to threats from Islamic fundamentalists, Pakistani church officials have confirmed.
“It is true that the judge has vanished. Nobody knows where is now,” Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan (NCCP), told ENInews on Oct. 14 from his office in Lahore.
Justice Syed Pervez Ali Shah of the Anti Terrorism court had sentenced to death on Oct. 1 policeman Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri for shooting Taseer on Jan. 4. The governor had criticized a Pakistani blasphemy law that makes it a crime to insult Islam.
With Islamic groups continuing protests against the verdict, Shah has not been seen in his Rawalpindi office since Oct. 4, according to Malik Khalid Jawad, president of the bar association.
Michele Chaudhry, a Catholic and spokesperson of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), also confirmed to ENInews that the judge Shah has gone “on long leave without any clue to his whereabouts,” adding “this is the danger faced by anyone who is seen as opposing the blasphemy law.”
Azariah said that Islamic groups are still continuing the protests against the death sentence to Qadri with demonstrations being held across Pakistan on Oct. 14.
Meanwhile the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), visited Pakistan from Oct. 8-10 and called for protection of religious minorities and the need for measures against religious intolerance.
“The Pakistani government should not turn a blind eye to the culture of violence perpetrated through the use and abuse of the blasphemy law, which intensify communal hatred, intolerance and persecution ... particularly of religious minorities,” Tveit said.