‘Anyone can kill me’: lawyer battles Pakistan blasphemy laws

Saif-ul-Mulook, a Pakistani lawyer for Christian mother Asia Bibi, arrives at the Supreme Court in Islamabad on October 31, 2018. Pakistan's Supreme Court on October 31 overturned the conviction of a Christian mother facing execution for blasphemy in a landmark case which has incited deadly violence and reached as far as the Vatican. (AFP / AAMIR QURESHI)
Updated 01 November 2018

‘Anyone can kill me’: lawyer battles Pakistan blasphemy laws

ISLAMABAD: After saving condemned Christian Asia Bibi from the gallows in Pakistan, her lawyer says he is facing the wrath of Islamist extremists — and wonders who will save him.
But despite the threats against him, Saif-ul-Mulook says he regrets nothing, and will continue his legal fight against intolerance.
Mulook’s latest victory saw the freeing of Asia Bibi — a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, who spent nearly a decade on death row — after the Supreme Court overturned her conviction Wednesday.
“The verdict has shown that the poor, the minorities and the lowest segments of society can get justice in this country despite its shortcomings,” he told AFP immediately after the verdict.
“This is the biggest and happiest day of my life.”
Demonstrations against the ruling erupted across the country hours later, with extremists calling for mutiny against the army’s top brass, and for the assassination of Supreme Court justices.
Blasphemy is a highly inflammatory charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even the slightest whiff of insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad can incite vigilante mobs.
Mulook said he feels he is now a sitting duck with no security or escape plan.
“I think I have absolutely no safety. No security and I am the easiest target... anybody can kill me,” he said.
The defense of Bibi was just the latest in a long line of controversial cases taken up by the barrister.
In 2011, Mulook was the lead prosecutor against Mumtaz Qadri over the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer — a prominent critic of the country’s blasphemy laws and supporter of Bibi.
Qadri — one of Taseer’s bodyguards — gunned down his boss in broad daylight, citing the governor’s calls for reform of the blasphemy laws as his motive.
Mulook said he took on the case as others cowered, fearing reprisals from extremists.
His prosecution resulted in the conviction and subsequent execution of Qadri, who was feted by Islamists and later honored with a shrine on the outskirts of Islamabad.
Mulook says his life has not been the same since; he rarely socializes, lives in a constant state of hypervigilance and has been inundated with threats.
“If you conduct such cases you should be ready for the results and the consequences,” the greying 62-year-old explains.
But Mulook said the risks have been worth the reward.
“I think it’s better to die as a brave and strong man than to die as a mouse and fearful person,” he said.
“I extend my legal help to all people.”


Iraqi migrant found dead on northern French beach

Updated 29 min 42 sec ago

Iraqi migrant found dead on northern French beach

  • The body of the Iraqi Kurdish youth was discovered by a passerby on a beach in Le Touquet, about 70 kilometers (about 40 miles) south of the port of Calais
  • Over the past year, growing numbers of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia have taken to the treacherous waters of the Channel in small fishing boats or inflatable dinghies

LILLE, France: A 17-year-old Iraqi migrant was found dead Monday on a beach in northern France, local authorities said, as the number of migrants attempting to cross the Channel to Britain spirals.
The body of the Iraqi Kurdish youth was discovered by a passerby on a beach in Le Touquet, about 70 kilometers (about 40 miles) south of the port of Calais, long a rallying point for migrants hoping to stow away on a truck or ferry bound for Britain.
Twenty meters from the body, police found a small boat, “with two oars inside and a canister of fuel and a life vest nearby,” the region’s security department told AFP.
A similar boat was found some 450 meters from the scene but it was not clear if the two were linked.
Over the past year, growing numbers of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia have taken to the treacherous waters of the Channel in small fishing boats or inflatable dinghies.
Rights groups have linked the crossings to a police crackdown in Calais, which has made it harder for migrants to try climb aboard a passing truck.
On Monday, eight migrants were intercepted on a beach near Calais and taken to a shelter.
Maritime authorities in northern France counted 1,473 migrants who tried to reach Britain’s shores by sea between January and August this year, compared with 586 in all of 2018.
In August, two migrants were found dead in the Channel — an Iranian woman who drowned after falling out of a packed migrant boat and an Iraqi man who was found dead off the Belgian port of Zeebrugge after trying to swim to England.
The Iraqi migrant is believed to have set off from a beach in northern France, with currents dragging him into Belgian waters.