Christian prisoner Zafar Bhatti needs cataract surgery and his wife Nawab Bibi needs physiotherapy to treat injuries sustained in a recent fall.
Zafar Bhatti (57) was imprisoned on false blasphemy charges in 2012 in Rawalpindi and was sentenced to life in prison in 2017. His appeal hearings have been adjourned around twenty times and he is very frustrated by the delay. Zafar suffers from diabetes and heart disease as well as cataracts.
Nawab (72) has been living alone since Zafar’s imprisonment and struggles with poor health. She visits her husband weekly, bringing home-cooked food, and on 30 April she fell down the external stairs of her apartment building just as she was leaving to buy food to cook for him. As she lay screaming in pain her neighbours and landlord came to her rescue and helped her back to her flat.
Describing her fall, Nawab said: “I was on my way out of my apartment block to buy vegetables to cook for Zafar but I slipped from the stairs that were soaked by the heavy rainfall at the time. As I fell there was immense pain in my back and I screamed hoping someone would hear and come to my rescue. Luckily, my neighbours and the landlord rushed out and they helped me get back to my room.”
Nawab contacted the operations manager of the British Asian Christian Association (which helps her to pay for rent, groceries and other expenses including medical treatment for herself and Zafar). The operations manager travelled to Rawalpindi with his team that night. “I am thankful that BACA travelled overnight to take care of me,” Nawab said, “as it was difficult for me to walk or move.”
The BACA team took Nawab to MaxHealth Hospital in Islamabad, where a team of doctors examined her and carried out an x-ray. They discovered a dislocated disc in her spine and advised physiotherapy as the best course of action. Nawab was relieved, as she had feared that kidney failure was causing the pain in her back. She has been placed on a pain relief medication plan and is recovering. (A BACA team member is pictured with her below, following the visit to hospital.)
Only days after her fall, Nawab was shocked when her landlord submitted eviction notice papers to her. The eviction is not connected to the incident but has been sought so that the landlord can house a relative in the vacant property. The BACA team is seeking a new home for Nawab, at ground-floor level because of her frail condition.
Reacting to her eviction, Nawab said: “The landlords have started the eviction process with me and have left me agitated. Zafar always organised our homes and other matters and I did not know what I would do. I am grateful to BACA who are stepping in to help me. However, I am saddened that the home Zafar and I shared with so many of our memories will not be available to him when he is finally released.”
Will acquittal come too late?
Nawab fears that Zafar’s acquittal may come too late for her. “I fear I am going to die without seeing my Zafar set free,” she told BACA. “The authorities are not going to release him quickly and seem to be putting obstacles in the way of justice. I believe it is because of strong prejudices against Christians – but this is so dangerous for them as God will judge them for their wrongdoings. Even if I do not see Zafar free during this lifetime we will meet again in heaven – our God is a great God.”
Commenting on Zafar’s long quest for justice, Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for the British Asian Christian Association, said: “I am disturbed at the lack of international noise over the ongoing incarceration of Zafar Bhatti despite his obvious innocence. Zafar has now been imprisoned for longer than Asia Bibi, Pakistan’s most famous blasphemy law victim… but he is being ignored.”
BACA’s Operations Manager cannot visit Zafar due to COVID-19 restrictions (only family social-bubbles can meet with inmates) but it is believed that visits from organisations will resume in about two months.
Church in Chains is planning to send aid to Pakistan to pay for Zafar’s cataract surgery and for physiotherapy for his wife Nawab.
Read Zafar’s Prisoner Profile.
(British Asian Christian Association)