Junaid Hafeez (Source: Twitter)

Today, even as Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan, in a tweet, accused India of moving away from “pluralist India” to “Hindutva Supremacist fascist ideology”, a court in Multan has sentenced Junaid Hafeez to death on blasphemy charges.

Hafeez is 32 years old. He was arrested in 2013, when he was a Fulbright scholar and a lecturer at a university in Multan, on allegations of blasphemy on the social media.

The charges against him included “liking” an allegedly blasphemous Facebook page. Police had also accused Hafeez of running and disseminating blasphemous content from a Facebook page.

He allegedly founded two Facebook pages: "So-Called Liberals of Pakistan" and "Mulla Munafiq."

The sentence was announced under Section 295-A, 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Section 295-A deals with "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs," Section 295-B is regarding the "Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur'an", whereas 295-C deals with the "use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet."

The court also said that Hafeez will not be available for reduction of jail-time under CrPc "because in case of blasphemer, this court has found no circumstances for taking lenient view and it is also not permitted in Islam".

Fearing their lives, the lawyers refused to defend Hafeez. Mudassar, the lawyer Hafeez's father originally hired, buckled under threats and dropped the case in June of 2013. The (Supreme Court) Bar Association of Pakistan also forbid all its members to represent Hafeez in court.

Ultimately, his case was taken up by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's Multan coordinator, Rashid Rehman.

Hafeez and Rehman faced death threats throughout. Even so, the Lahore High Court refused former’s request that the trial be moved to Lahore given the hostile environment in Multan. The court directed him to approach the police in Multan for protection.

Rehman was killed by unidentified assailants in his office in 2014. Junaid has been held in solitary confinement since 2014, for the fear of fellow prisoners or others attacking and killing him.

Reportedly, Hafeez was a bright student and had got admission in the King Edward Medical College in Lahore to study medicine. However, he left the institution within two years without completing his MBBS due to his interest in art and literature.

As a Fulbright Scholar, he spent a year at Jackson State University in Mississippi, studying theatre, photography and English literature. He moved back to his home region in 2006 to study English Literature at Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) at Multan.

Reportedly, Hafeez was challenged by the student wing of Jamaat e Islaami, a Muslim political party, as part of "a campaign to Islamize the English Department" at BZU. It wasn't the first time Hafeez had faced opposition for his ideals.

The department head, Shirin Zaubair, tried to protect him but she was targeted herself. Once she was gone, the Tehrik-tahafaz-e-Namoos-e-risalat, a derivative of Jamaat e Islaami, warned the university that they would take matters into their own hands if such Hafeez’s alleged western liberal teachings were not addressed.

Rana Akbar Tabish, a member of the student wing of Jamaat e Islaami, began distributing a pamphlet in March 2013 that called for the hanging of Hafeez, whom the group accused of blasphemy. A strike was organised, and Junaid was stripped of his admission, housing and teaching contract with no investigation of the accusations.

He was banned from the campus and the target of ongoing protests, Hafeez had to flee, but was caught by the Police and booked in Sahiwal Jail.

There have been accusations of lax investigation into charges against Hafeez, and many allege that a false case was filed against him.