Family Tell Of 'Worst Nightmare'

26 September 2014, 15:00 | Updated: 26 September 2014, 15:03

The family of a British man shot in a Pakistan prison have said they are living their "worst nightmare'' as they appealed for the authorities to bring him back to the UK.

Grandfather Mohammad Asghar was apparently targeted by a guard at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi yesterday morning.

The 70-year-old, from Edinburgh, was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in January after writing letters to a number of people claiming to be the Prophet Mohammed.

His family said he is a "very mentally ill man'' and called on the authorities to help him now, before it is too late.

His daughter, Jasmine Rana, 40, called on the British Government to step in, during a press conference in Glasgow today.

Her voice cracked with emotion as she said: "This is our worst nightmare come true. Ever since news of his sentence reached us in January of this year, we have spent every day fearing for his safety.

"The UK and Scottish Governments assured our family that steps were being taken to keep our dad safe in prison. Obviously that hasn't happened. Our father turned out to be at risk from the very people responsible for his safety.

"We are begging David Cameron and the whole of the British Government to do everything they can to ensure that as soon as he is well enough to travel our father is brought back to the UK where he will be safe. Until then we want him to be kept in a hospital where he will be properly protected and treated.''

She described her father as "the sweetest and nicest person you will ever meet'', who came to the UK when he was 16 and went on to become a successful businessman and millionaire, and who also opened a school in Lahore, Pakistan, and an orphanage in Rawalpindi.

Mr Asghar was arrested in Rawalpindi in 2010 after a blasphemy complaint was brought against him by a tenant with whom he was having a dispute.

He had previously been diagnosed as suffering from severe paranoid schizophrenia but this was not taken into account by the authorities during his trial, the family's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said.

Mr Anwar said prison doctors have failed to acknowledge the severity of his psychiatric illness and he has been given only the most basic antidepressant medication.

Mr Asghar's son, Tony Asghar, 41, said he has not seen his father for five years as he has been warned it would not be safe for him to travel to Pakistan.

He said: "It's killing me that I've not seen my father for five years. It is a nightmare, an absolute nightmare.

"We just want him back.''

Mr Anwar said Mr Asghar was shot as he lay on his bed in his prison cell and was hit in the back by a bullet.

He is being treated in an "extremely underfunded and derelict'' state hospital, he said.

Mr Anwar has urged First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene to see Mr Asghar removed without delay to a secure medical facility and transferred to the UK.

He warned that Mr Asghar may die if action is not taken, and said the Asghar family will hold Mr Cameron personally responsible.

He said: "There is no safe haven for those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. It is abhorrent that a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia faces the death sentence and is not safe from those paid to protect him. Mr Asghar must be released immediately.''

A Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday: "We have raised our concerns with the local authorities at a senior level.''