By Rana Tanveer
A 70-year-old Ahmadi man who was on trial for blasphemy charges died in Bahawalpur Jail where he was kept for three months.
Asghar Ali Kalaar, who was arrested in September 2021, had denied all allegations of blasphemy saying that he was implicated for his religious beliefs. He had requested the court to release him on bail on the basis of his health conditions. His request for bail had been postponed until November. He remained incarcerated while his Post Arrest Bail Application was pending before the Supreme Court.
On January 4, he was taken to the hospital after he complained of vomiting. He died at Victoria Hospital, Bahawalpur on January 10. Kalaar is survived by a widow and three children. He was the second Ahmadi man to have died while on trial for allegations of blasphemy in the past year.
Blasphemy, section 295-C under the Pakistani Penal Code, is punishable by death. A report by the Center for Social Justice indicated that approximately 20 per cent of people accused of blasphemy are Ahmadi, although the group account for less than 0.2 per cent of the total population.
In 2020, 200 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, the highest number per year on record. Approximately 75 per cent of the accused were Muslim, of whom 70 per cent were Shia. The remaining 20 per cent were Ahamdi; 3.5 per cent were Christian; and 1 per cent were Hindu.