It has been 86 years since Bhagat Singh, the revolutionary freedom fighter had been hanged for the murder of a British officer. After all this time, a Pakistani lawyer, Advocate Imtiaz Rashid Qureshi, is fighting to prove his innocence in a Lahore court. On Monday, Qureshi filed a fresh petition in the Lahore High Court for an early hearing of his case to prove Bhagat Singh’s innocence.
February last year, a division bench of the Lahore High Court had asked the chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a larger bench to hear Qureshi’s petition. Qureshi also runs the Lahore-based, Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation. There has been no action on this request. Qureshi’s petition had claimed that Singh was a freedom fighter who fought for the independence of undivided India. Singh is considered a hero in the Punjabi-speaking area of Lahore, Pakistan. Bhagat Singh is respected not only by Indians, but by Pakistanis as well, said Qureshi to Press Trust of India. Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan also paid tribute to Bhagat Singh twice.
Bhagat Singh died at the age of 23 on March 23, 1931, after being accused of murdering a British officer and devising a conspiracy against the colonial government. In 2014, the Lahore policed was ordered by the court to search through records of the Anarkali police station to find the First Information Report (FIR) on John P Saunders’ case in 1928. This case was filed against Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru for allegedly killing Saunders. A copy of this FIR was provided to Qureshi on the basis of court orders.
The FIR was filed in Urdu, at the Anarkali police station on the 17th of December, 1928 at 16:30 hrs. This FIR was against two “unknown gunmen”, Singh’s name was never mentioned in this report. Although, eventually he was given the death sentence.
Qureshi believes “It is a matter of national importance” and that Singh should be honored with a state award by exercising principles of review, as he requested the court. Qureshi has also written to the government regarding the creation of a statue of Bhagat Singh, which would be place in Shadman Chowk in central Lahore, the same spot where Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hung.
According to Qureshi, special judges of the tribunal had not given Singh’s lawyers a chance to question the 450 witnesses, and nor did the special judges hear them before they awarded Singh the death sentence.
“I will establish Bhagat Singh’s innocence in the Saunders case,” said Qureshi, the lawyer from Lahore fighting for the innocence of an “Indian” freedom fighter.