The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has voiced serious concern over threats extended to a senior lawyer representing a blasphemy accused inside a courtroom in the Multan Central Prison.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the HRCP said it was extremely concerned about threats in open court to the lawyers of an accused in a blasphemy case, Junaid Hafeez. His lawyers Rashid Rehman and Allah Dad had appeared for a hearing on Wednesday. The case is being heard in Multan Central Jail in view of security concerns.

"During arguments for acquittal of the accused, three persons addressed defence lawyer Rashid Rehman, in the judge's presence and said: 'You will not come to court next time because you will not exist anymore.' Mr. Rehman drew the judge's attention to the threat but the judge is reported to have remained silent.

The difficulty that the accused has had in finding and retaining a lawyer is well known and HRCP said it views that as a systematic denial of legal representation to the accused. If this charade continues for much longer HRCP will have no qualms in concluding that it has been decided that the accused would not be allowed legal representation and there is no need to bother with a trial anymore, the statement said. HRCP demands action under the law against the three persons who threatened the lawyer in the case without delay and effective measures to ensure the defence lawyer's security.

In the case of former federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti who was killed in 2011, two eyewitnesses received death threats in February and were told not to give evidence by two terror groups. The trial is underway at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. The witnesses had sought increased police protection and filed a police complaint.