QC's petition put pressure on Pakistan

SIBGHAT Kadri QC was overwhelmed with support as he canvassed for signatures to a petition calling for the lifting of the death penalty imposed on two Pakistani Christians accused of blasphemy.

And he believes the letter to the president of Pakistan signed by 75 barristers helped increase the international pressure against the convictions which were quashed in the Lahore High Court last week.

Salamat Masih was just 11 when he and his uncle were accused of writing offensive graffiti on a mosque wall.

It took Kadri, chair of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in Pakistan, little more than a weekend to get 75 colleagues to sign the letter handed to the Pakistan High Commissioner on last week.

Among the leading barristers who signed the letter were Lord Irvine of Lairg QC, Lord Williams of Mostyn QC and Anthony Scrivener QC.

But Kadri, the first Pakistani barrister to be awarded silk, says he could have collected hundreds of names if he had had time to go to more chambers to canvass support.

He says: "We will be keeping a close eye on developments in the hope that the blasphemy laws passed by the military regime of General Zia ul Haq will be abolished."