Christian Paralyzed in Pakistan – Appeal Filed Over Release of One of His Muslim Attackers

By 

Shaheryar Gill

|

March 4, 2021

We reported about two months ago that a trial court in Pakistan had convicted two Muslim men for attempted murder after they shot a Christian man over a minor argument.

Our European Centre for Law and Justice’s (ECLJ) affiliate in Pakistan, the Organization for Legal Aid (OLA), represents Waqar Masih, a 27-year-old Christian man who owned a snack and cold drink shop, who was shot four times by Muhammad Shahbaz and his accomplice, Muhammad Qasim, for selling them stale betel quid called paan, a snack consisting of betel leaves filled with nuts and other ingredients.

Shahbaz and Qasim got into a quarrel with Waqar when he asked them to pay for the snack. The two men left after swearing at and insulting Waqar but returned a few minutes later to accusatively ask Waqar, how a churha (a pejorative term for Christians) could treat them with such disrespect. They then shot Waqar four times, with one bullet injuring his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed.

On October 28, 2020, the trial court convicted both defendants. Although the charged offenses prescribed ten years’ imprisonment, the trial court sentenced Shahbaz to only seven years and Qasim to five years’ imprisonment. In light of the irreparable harm done to Waqar, the OLA appealed the decision in the Sessions Court, asking the court to enhance the punishment. The defendants also appealed.

During legal arguments, our affiliate attorney highlighted the heinous nature of the crime, the medical report coupled with the fact that Waqar is unable to walk, and the clear evidence that proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.

In a partial victory on January 13, 2021, the Sessions Court enhanced Shahbaz’s sentence from seven years to ten years’ imprisonment, relying on the investigation report that Shahbaz was the one who shot all four rounds. Surprisingly, however, after giving a troubling reasoning that has no basis in law, the court acquitted Qasim.

While the court did not deny the facts that both defendants had a quarrel with Waqar over a minor matter, and that minutes later both returned on a motorbike, at which time Shahbaz shot Waqar, and then both defendants fled the scene, the court acquitted Qasim, reasoning that the investigation did not find that Qasim caused any injuries to Waqar. But the court’s reasoning did not end there. It stated that the “possibility” could not be ruled out that Qasim “might” have acted under Shahbaz’s direction by accompanying him to the crime scene “without knowing” what Shahbaz was going to do. The court cited no evidence to this effect. Instead, all the evidence points to the contrary.

On February 12, 2021, our Pakistani affiliate filed an appeal in the High Court, arguing that the court’s reasoning is based on pure conjecture. The appeal discusses the applicable statutes and case law showing how the courts have interpreted the statutes. We will update once the High Court schedules a hearing for the argument. For now, our thoughts and prayers are with Waqar, who is seeking medical advice regarding the possibility of surgeries that might help him walk again.