MULTAN  -  Unidentified armed persons shot dead a senior lawyer and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Multan representative, Rashid Rehman, here on Wednesday night, police said.
Witnesses said two armed men entered the chamber of Rashid Rehman at Hajweri Arcade and showered a volley of bullets on him, leaving him dead on the spot. Another lawyer, Nadim Parwaz, and a client, Afzal, who were also present in the chamber at the time of the incident, also received bullets and were rushed to hospital in critical condition. The assailants managed to escape after committing the crime.
Deceased Rashid Rehman was a counsel for a blasphemy accused, Junaid Hafeez, and had received life threats from unknown persons.
District Bar Association Multan President Sher Zaman Qureshi said the deceased had informed police of the life threats in advance, but the security agencies failed to protect him.
Chehlyak police rushed to the spot after receiving information of the incident and moved the body and the injured to Nishtar Hospital. A large number of lawyers and citizens reached the spot and shouted slogans against police.
Meanwhile, the legal fraternity lodged a strong protest against the incident while District Bar Association Multan President Sher Zaman Qureshi declared that the lawyers would observe a complete strike on Thursday (today). Talking to this scribe, he said the killings of lawyers were an organised conspiracy. He condemned police for their failure to protect lawyers. He said though Rashid Rehman had informed the police about life threats, no step was taken for his security.
AFP adds: Rehman was representing Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University, accused of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)in March last year.
Hafeez was known for his liberal views at the university and the case of blasphemy was registered after pressure from right-wing student groups, said a student, who wished not to be named.
An official at the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said for a year no lawyer was prepared to take up the case over fears of attacks from extremist groups. But Rehman, who was also a rights activist and coordinator of the HRCP, decided to defend Hafeez.
During the first hearing in March this year, which took place inside a prison for security reasons, Rehman received threats from the lawyers representing the complainant.
“During the hearing the lawyers of the complainant told Rehman that he wouldn’t be present at the next hearing as he would not be alive,” said the HRCP in a statement issued after the incident in March.
According to the HRCP, Rehman was threatened in the presence of the judge.