Rashid Rehman, lawyer and human rights defender, was shot dead on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. He worked for the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and frequently denounced the repression of Pakistan’s religious minorities.
He was murdered by two gunmen who entered his office posing as prospective clients. Rashid was in his office with a colleague and a client, who were also shot, but survived. The attack came a few weeks after he took the case of a college lecturer accused of blasphemy, Junaid Hafeez.
Junaid Hafeez, the defendant, was professor at Bahauddin Zakaria University until he was accused of blasphemy. In Pakistan this crime carries the death penalty, and the people accused of blasphemy are often lynched or can stay in jail for years without trial because lawyers are too afraid to defend them and judges are afraid to take part in the trials. Judges have previously been attacked in Pakistan for acquitting blasphemy defendants and two politicians who discussed reforming the law that makes blasphemy a crime, were shot dead. Hafeez’s trial was held inside the jail because of the risk that Hafeez would be killed if it were held in a building open to the public.
Rashid moved that the case be dismissed as fabricated and therefore he received death threats from two prosecution lawyers if he did not drop the case. The presiding judge and the police were informed by Rashid and the HRCP about the threats, but did nothing. After Rashid’s murder, a pamphlet was distributed stating that the lawyer met his “rightful end” for trying to “save someone who disrespected the Prophet Mohammed” and warning all lawyers to “be afraid of god and think twice before engaging in such acts”.