UK: Man jailed for blasphemy in Pakistan ‘can never go home’

Minorities often get long sentences for blasphemy under Pakistani law

A British man jailed under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws has spoken of his experience after escaping to the UK.

Masud Ahmad, 73, an Ahmadiyya, was jailed in November last year for reciting a passage of the Quran.

The Ahmadiyya were declared “non-Muslim” by the Pakistan government in 1974 and are barred from practising their faith.

Mr Ahmad, who now lives in Glasgow, believes he was targeted and set up to be arrested.

Speaking to the BBC, he said he was approached by a man at his homeopathy clinic in Lahore. He said: “He asked me for some medical advice. I wrote whatever was needed and after that he pushed me into the religious questions. I took the Quran out and I said, ’let’s see what the Quran says’. I just quoted a little bit and translated it into Urdu, and then the police came.

“They grabbed me by the neck and took me to the police station.”

Mr Ahmad was in jail for 65 days before he fled to the UK while on bail. He had lived in the UK in the 1960s but returned to Pakistan in the 80s.

He said: “Any Ahmadi can be sent to prison or murdered any time and nobody will ask ‘why did you do that?’ because he is a second class citizen, or rather third-class citizen.

“I love my country but I can’t go back. If I go back I will be imprisoned or murdered, so I have no choice but to live in Britain and enjoy the freedom.”

Mr Ahmad is one of scores of people who have been arrested in Pakistan under the country’s blasphemy laws, which carry sentences of life in prison or the death penalty, although executions are rarely carried out.

Human rights groups say the laws often are exploited for personal gain and that members of Pakistan’s minority population are disproportionately targeted.