Family of death row Scot plead with Sarwar for blasphemy charge pardon
THE FAMILY of a mentally ill Scot sentenced to death in Pakistan are demanding that former Glasgow MP Mohammad Sarwar, now governor of Punjab, break his silence on the case and pardon their loved one.
Mohammad Asghar, from Edinburgh, has been imprisoned in Pakistan accused of claiming to be the Prophet Mohammed since 2010 and was sentenced to death in January.
The 70-year-old has paranoid schizophrenia and was shot in the back by a prison guard at Adiala prison in Rawalpindi last month, prompting calls for the Prime Minster to step in.
Asghar family plead with Sarwar
Now his family is asking Sarwar, the former Labour MP for Glasgow Central who became governor of Punjab in August 2013, to pardon him – something he has the power to do, but has not done so far.
Aamer Anwar, the Asghar family’s solicitor, said:
“It would be unfair to single out one Pakistani politician in what is a very dangerous and sensitive issue. However, the Asghar family invested a great deal of hope in Mohammad Sarwar. He is, after all, the Governor from Glasgow – the man who, with no powers, brought back the killers of Kriss Donald from Pakistan and is now one of the most powerful men in the country, who has the power to free Mohammad Asghar. So of course his family will look to Sarwar for help.
“Sadly, there has been total silence in recent months. The family are exceedingly disappointed but they still have hope. I appreciate it takes real courage for an individual to take a decision like this but this is about a man who is ill mentally.
“It is not to do with laws, it is simply to do with the fact that he is so sick, so ill mentally, that he should never have been in court. He was unfit to stand trial and that is the basis on which he should be returned.”
It is understood the UK Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) encouraged the family to stay silent about their case when Asghar was initially arrested in 2010.
However, they became increasingly frustrated with a lack of action, often receiving information from the media in Pakistan instead of the FCO itself.
“That is not acceptable,” explained Anwar. “The family are frustrated now as they were asked by the UK Government to maintain total silence, which they did for four years because they were told it would jeopardise their father’s life. He was then sentenced to death in January and yet again, by the powers that be, they were advised they should remain silent. And then he was shot.
“The family said ‘no more’. That strategy hasn’t worked.
“Yet again we are still getting numerous correspondence with the FCO where their sole strategy is to emphasise that the family should remain silent and it’s simply not acceptable.
“We will keep saying that until someone with seniority, ie the Prime Minister of the UK Government, picks up that phone and contacts Nawaz Sharif [the president] in Pakistan and tells him this man is seriously ill.”
A spokesman from the Foreign and Commonwealth office said: “We are deeply concerned about the case of Mr Asghar, who was shot while on detention in prison in Pakistan. Consular officials continue to monitor his situation and are liaising with the hospital and prison authorities.
“We continue to work closely with the Pakistani government on this case. We have raised at the highest levels our desire that Mr Asghar’s personal security is safeguarded, and that he is able to access the vital treatment that his medical condition requires, and that there is an urgent investigation into what happened.
“We have previously raised our concerns about his wider case, including through the former foreign secretary, and will continue to do so. It is crucial that concerns about Mr Asghar’s safety and mental health are addressed and also taken into consideration during his appeal, and that his documented history of mental illness is taken into account.
“We are in regular contact with family members in the UK and Pakistan.”