Pakistan president urged not to pardon Christian woman
CNN/ 24 november 2010
Islambad, Pakistan (CNN) – Two prominent Pakistani Muslim leaders threatened Wednesday to call for nationwide protests if the president pardons a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
“If the president pardons Asia Bibi, we will raise our voices across the country until he is forced to take his decision back,” nationally known mufti Muneer Ur Rehman said.
Hafiz Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, a leading cleric in Lahore, said pardoning the woman would be “criminal negligence” and would cause inter-religious tension.
Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer told CNN Tuesday that President Asif Ali Zardari would pardon Bibi if the High Court did not grant her request for mercy.
Bibi, who has been jailed for nearly 15 months, was convicted in a Pakistani court earlier this month of breaking the country’s controversial blasphemy law by insulting Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, a crime punishable with death or life imprisonment, according to Pakistan’s penal code. She was sentenced to death.
A spokesman for Zardari said Wednesday that no action has been taken, but the president will pardon her if necessary.
“No decision has been taken,” spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. “Under the constitution, the president has to act under the advise of the prime minister. He will advise the president to take whatever action he proposes.”
Babar said jurists and legal experts have debated about whether the president has absolute power under the constitution to grant a pardon. But he said Bibi is not in danger of being executed.
“Asia cannot be executed now,” Babar said. “Under the law, a death sentenced issued by a session court can not be carried out until it has been endorsed by the high court.”
Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for the president, said Pakistan remains committed to protecting religious minorities.
“Pakistan is a nation of many faiths and religions, and all Pakistanis, no matter what their religion, are equal under the law,” Ispahani said in a written statement. “President Zardari has followed the case of Asia Bibi closely and will take appropriate action, if necessary, to issue a pardon or grant clemency to insure that Asia Bibi is neither incarcerated or harmed.”
A preliminary investigation showed Bibi was falsely accused, a government official said Monday.
“The president asked me to investigate her case, and my preliminary findings show she is innocent and the charges against her are baseless,” Pakistani Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti told CNN. Bhatti has said he will submit a final report Wednesday to Zardari’s office.
Prosecutors say Bibi, a 45-year-old field worker, insulted the Prophet Mohammed after she got into a heated argument with Muslim co-workers who refused to drink from a bucket of water she had touched because she is not Muslim.
In a brief news conference at the prison where she’s being held, Bibi said last weekend that the allegations against her are lies fabricated by a group of women who don’t like her. “We had some differences and this was their way of taking revenge,” she said.
Bibi’s death sentence sparked outrage among human rights groups, who condemned Pakistan’s blasphemy law as a source of violence and persecution against religious minorities.
But Babar said the president’s party lacks the power in parliament to repeal Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
“The manifesto of the Pakistan Peoples Party calls for the law to be repealed, but the party has not been able to repeal it because we lack the majority in parliament,” Babar said. “We don’t have the numbers to do it.”
Pakistan is more than 96 percent Muslim, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Click HERE to see a short video about Asia incident
Condemned Christian woman seeks mercy in Pakistan
Reuters Faith World Blog/ 20 november 2010
[...] “I told police that I have not committed any blasphemy and this is a wrong accusation, but they did not listen to me” Bibi told reporters after meeting with Salman Taseer, governor of the central Punjab province where she is imprisoned. “I have small kids. I have wrongly been implicated in this false case,” she said in the prison, covered in a cloak that only revealed her eyes.
Taseer said he would take up Bibi’s case with President Asif Ali Zardari, who has the constitutional power to pardon her. “Inshallah (God willing) her appeal will be accepted” Taseer said, adding that he had studied Bibi’s case and found that she had not committed any blasphemy. “She is a helpless Christian woman. She can’t legally defend herself because she does not have resources. Implicating such helpless minorities in such cases amounts to ridiculing the constitution of Pakistan” Taseer added.
[...] “Most people accused of blasphemy never committed the act but were charged by people with ulterior motives like a property dispute (or) personal vendetta” the Lahore newspaper Daily Times wrote on Tuesday in an editorial. “Sadly, this is reminiscent of the Salem witch trials in the U.S. in the 17th century”.
Former federal information minister Sherry Rehman, president of the Jinnah Institute human rights group, said, “It is clear that Asia Bibi is yet another victim of the shocking prejudice that pervades our institutions. If all institutions of the state, including the judiciary, cannot protect its minorities from abuse, they must no longer be complicit in their victimization. The Blasphemy Law has been abused for over twenty years as an instrument of communal supremacism, and must be removed now”.
At his weekly audience on Wednesday, Pope Benedict appealed for Bibi’s release: “These days the international community is following with great concern the plight of Christians in Pakistan, who are often victims of violence or discrimination. Especially today I express my spiritual closeness to Mrs. Asia Bibi and her family, while I ask that, as soon as possible, she be restored to full freedom. I also pray for those who find themselves in similar situations, so that their human dignity and their fundamental rights are fully respected.”
See also> Sentenced to death: On Pakistan’s minorities
Pakistan will not repeal blasphemy law – govt minister
Reuters Faith World Blog/ 23 november 2010
Pakistan will not repeal its controversial blasphemy law but may amend it to prevent abuse because scrapping the legislation could fuel Islamist militancy, a government minister said on Tuesday.
The law, which carries the death penalty for insulting Islam or its Prophet Mohammad, has come under the spotlight this month after a court sentenced a Christian mother of four, Asia Bibi, to death in a case stemming from a village dispute.
Widespread media attention on the case has led to renewed appeals by human rights groups for the repeal of the law but Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said that would not happen.
“(Repeal) is not being considered though we are considering changing it so that misuse of the law should be stopped,” Bhatti told Reuters. The law enjoys widespread support in Pakistan, which is more than 95 percent Muslim, and politicians are loathe to be seen as soft on the defense of the religion.
Blasphemy convictions are common although the death sentence has never been carried out. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal, but angry mobs have killed many people accused of blasphemy.
Bhatti said consultations with Islamic clerics and representatives of religious minorities on amending the law would soon be held. He said repealing it was not being considered because that could provoke religious parties and militants who want to topple the pro-U.S civilian government.
Christian woman sentenced to death
in Pakistan ‘for blasphemy’
The Telegraph/ 9 november 2010
A Christian woman has been sentenced to hang in Pakistan after being convicted of defaming the Prophet Mohammed.
Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.
Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.
Her supporters say she will now appeal against the sentence handed down in a local court in the town of Sheikhupura, near Lahore, Pakistan.
Ashiq Masih, her husband, said he had not had the heart to break the news to two of their children. “I haven’t told two of my younger daughters about the court’s decision“, he said. “They asked me many times about their mother but I can’t get the courage to tell them that the judge has sentenced their mother to capital punishment for a crime she never committed.” Mrs Bibi has been held in prison since June last year.
The court heard she had been working as a farmhand in fields with other women, when she was asked to fetch drinking water.
Some of the other women – all Muslims – refused to drink the water as it had been brought by a Christian and was therefore “unclean”, according to Mrs Bibi’s evidence, sparking a row.
The incident was forgotten until a few days later when Mrs Bibi said she was set upon by a mob. The police were called and took her to a police station for her own safety.
Shahzad Kamran, of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, said: “The police were under pressure from this Muslim mob, including clerics, asking for Asia to be killed because she had spoken ill of the Prophet Mohammed. “So after the police saved her life they then registered a blasphemy case against her.” He added that she had been held in isolation for more than a year before being sentenced to death on Monday.
“The trial was clear“, he said. “She was innocent and did not say those words.” Earlier this year, Pakistan’s internet service providers were ordered to block Facebook to prevent access to supposedly blasphemous images.
Human rights groups believe the law is often used to discriminate against religious minorities, such as the country’s estimated three million Christians.
Although no one has ever been executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws – most are freed on appeal – as many as 10 people are thought to have been murdered while on trial.
Ali Hasan Dayan, of Human Rights Watch, said the blasphemy laws were out of step with rights guaranteed under Pakistan’s constitution and should be repealed. “It’s an obscene law“, he said. “Essentially the blasphemy law is used as a tool of persecution and to settle other scores that are nothing to do with religion. “It makes religious minorities particularly vulnerable because it’s often used against them.”
PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi In Court
Persecution Blog/ 19 october 2009
Asia was arrested by police on Friday, June 19, and charged with blasphemy. Her family is one of only three Christian families in a village of more than 1,500 families.
Many of the local women, including Asia, work on the farm of Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees. During their work many of the Muslim women have pressured Asia to renounce Christianity and accept Islam.
On June 19, there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling the Muslim women that Christ died on the cross for our sins, and then asked them what Mohammed had done for them, according to VOM sources. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammed is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God”, she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true”.
Upon hearing this response the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia Bibi. Then some men came and took her and locked her in a room. They announced from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey.
Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. She is currently being held at the police station in Nankana city. Christians there urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but police claimed that they must go forward due to the pressure from local Muslim leaders.
O femeie crestina din Pakistan va fi spanzurata
dupa ce a fost gasita vinovata de “blasfemie”
Hotnews/ 10 noiembrie 2010
O femeie pakistaneza de religie crestina va fi executata prin spanzurare dupa ce a fost condamnata pentru ca l-a defaimat pe profetul Mahommed, transmite The Telegraph. Asia Bibi (45 de ani), mama a cinci copii, a negat insa ca a comis vreo “blasfemie” si sustine ca este persecutata pentru religia sa, intr-o tara in care crestinii sunt deseori discriminati si hartuiti.
Potrivit informatiilor, Asia Bibi lucra pe camp impreuna cu alte femei, moment in care a fost rugata sa aduca apa de baut. Unele dintre femei – toate musulmane – au refuzat sa bea apa, sustinand ca a fost adusa de o crestina si ca este “impura”, declansand astfel o cearta. Incidentul a fost uitat, insa, dupa cateva zile, Bibi sustine ca a fost atacata de o multime furioasa.
Politistii au dus-o pe femeie la sectie, pentru a o proteja. Multimea cerea ca Bibi sa fie ucisa deoarece “l-a vorbit de rau pe profetul Mohammed“.
[Marturia Asiei Bibi: <Femeile musulmane care lucrau impreuna cu ea la ferma i-au vorbit Asiei despre Islam, incercand sa o converteasca. Asia le-a raspuns ca Hristos a murit pe cruce pentru pacatele noastre si apoi le-a intrebat ce a facut Mohamed pentru ele (conform surselor V.O.M.). Le-a spus, de asemenea, ca Iisus traieste, dar ca Mohamed este mort. “Hristosul nostru este adevaratul profet al Domnului, iar al vostru este fals”. De asemenea, o femeie musulmana, care spune ca a fost martora la acel incident, declara ca Asia ar fi zis ca Mohamed a avut gura plina de viermi atunci cand a murit - un fel mai dur de a spune ca nu a fost profet> - trad.dan.camen. (comp. CNN)]
Ofiterii au acuzat-o de blasfemie, iar femeia a fost inchisa la izolare peste un an de zile, inainte de a fi condamnata la moarte.
Verdictul a fost pronuntat de un tribunal local din Sheikhupura, in apropiere de Lahore.
Gruparile crestine si organizatiile pentru apararea drepturilor omului au condamnat verdictul si au cerut ca legile privind defaimarea sa fie abrogate, deoarece ele ar fi folosite pentru a discrimina impotriva minoritatilor religioase. Suporterii femeii, aflata in inchisoare din luna iunie a anului trecut, au anuntat ca vor face apel la verdictul magistratilor, deoarece Bibi este “inocenta“.
Publicatia britanica precizeaza ca, desi nimeni nu a fost executat pentru blasfemie in Pakistan pana in acest moment, cel putin 10 persoane au fost ucise in timp ce erau judecate.