Saif Malook left Pakistan’s Lahore High Court with his head held high on June 3.
He had secured freedom for his clients, Shagufta Kausar and her husband Shafqat Emmanuel, impoverished Pakistani Christians sentenced to death for blasphemy. Their convictions had just been overturned on appeal.
But almost immediately, Malook’s smile faded as extremists took to social media with threats to end his life.
“They called me an agent of the Jews, and many of the threats the Pakistani government determined to be credible,” he said from his home in Lahore.
“They even post pictures of the two judges who heard the case and declared them infidels too. This could have long-term implications. Judges will be scared after seeing this.”
While Malook, a Muslim, accepts the consequences of his work as one of the last lawyers willing to represent Christians on blasphemy charges, the impact spreads to his wife, a mathematics college professor, and his 15-year-old daughter in high school, both of whom also endure public taunts.
“My neighbors won’t talk to me; members of my family hate me too,” Malook said. “But I am working for these helpless people (Christians) because it is the right thing to do.”
His security situation has become more perilous in recent weeks after the courts overturned the death sentences of Kausar and Emmanuel.
The Christian couple was convicted in 2014 of disparaging the Prophet Muhammad, a severe crime under blasphemy legislation that prohibits the “act of expressing contempt or a lack of reverence for God or sacred things.” The crime carries the death sentence under Pakistani law, although capital punishment has never actually been carried out.
Appeal to the international community
Though Malook has devoted much of his professional life to those in dire judicial need in his home country, he is now making an appeal to the international community in the hope of securing a haven in the West.
Asia Bibi was granted asylum in Canada after Saif Malook got her conviction overturned in 2018. Hers is the most high-profile case involving Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. (Aid to the Church in Need)
“I would like to join Asia (Bibi) and her family in Canada,” Malook said. “My only wish now is to be able to spend my last years in peace.”
Despite the death threats, Malook, who earned his degree specializing in criminal law at the University of Punjab, Lahore, in 1980, is continuing the pursuit of justice while appealing to Western nations for further help.
“No other lawyers want to take on these cases — no person has a life hereafter taking on blasphemy cases, and there is no money in it. Those accused are very, very poor,” he said.
“The whole time, you are under threat, even from normal people who tell me I am supporting those who commit blasphemy.”