An appeal for Asia Bibi

With Members from the Pakistan parliament 19.04.11

Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian woman who has been convicted of blasphemy against the Prophet, under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws.   Recently a Pakistani government minster Shahbaz Bhatti, a Muslim who had called for reform of the blasphemy laws, was assassinated in a hail of bullets.  He was only 42.

It is reported that the blasphemy laws, which provide for the execution of those convicted, are widely mis-used to pursue vendettas and to settle old scores.  This appears to be the case with Asia Bibi.  According to her, she was involved in a verbal exchange with fellow-villagers, with no reference to Islam or the Prophet, and days later they accused her of blasphemy.

The BBC reports that “The local imam, Qari Mohammed Salim, told us he cried with joy when sentence was passed on Asia Bibi”.  This obvious relish by a man of God at the death sentence on a local woman suggests a serious prejudice against minority religions.

My ECR colleague Peter Van Dalen from the Netherlands has been very active in the campaign for justice for Asia Bibi, and he was able to tip me off before a meeting of our South Asia Delegation, attended by the Pakistan Ambassador and a number of Pakistani parliamentarians.  The picture above features the delegation leader Mr. Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mrs. Attiya Inayatullah, both Members of the National Assembly.

I raised the case of Asia Bibi.  This required sensitive handling.  It would not be right for me to try to pre-judge the appeals process in Pakistan, nor to criticise the Pakistani legal system, nor even to ask the parliamentarians to seek to influence the judicial process.  Nonetheless I thought it was right to raise our concern, and to express the hope that justice would be done in this difficult and distressing cases.  Our interlocutors from Pakistan stressed their support for democracy, and their concerns over the blasphemy laws in this case.  Indeed Mr. Fazlur Rehman had himself been the object of two failed suicide bomb attacks from extremists who consider him too moderate.

Pakistan is a country suffering dreadfully from terrorism, from religious disputes, from border tensions, and of course from natural disasters.  Like Asia Bibi, the Pakistani people deserve our good wishes and support.

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7 Responses to An appeal for Asia Bibi

  1. Peter Hulme Cross says:

    Roger,
    You might also mention the assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, who was shot dead by his Security Guard for supporting Asia Bibi and who was also trying to get the Blasphemy Laws changed. This was arguably the most high profile assassination since Benazir Bhutto. What was particularly shocking was that many people applauded the act and those who condemned it were threatened with the same fate.

    Blasphemy is part of Pakistan’s Constitution – Article 295-C. It is worth reading this article…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law_in_Pakistan

    also the ‘Selected Cases’ bit half way down, in addition to the two links you have provided.

    Certainly it is very dangerous to be a Christian in Pakistan. Asia Bibi’s family is the only Christian family in the village, now all in hiding, and even if she is released the mob will kill her, egged on by the local Mullah, all because some other local woman accused her of Blasphemy.

    And it is to this country that we have doubled our Overseas Aid, up 107% to £1.4 billion – see this link..

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/mar/01/uk-aid-review-cuts-dfid#data

    What is not clear is whether the £640 million promised by David Cameron on his recent visit to help educate Pakistan’s children is included or extra. Whichever way, Pakistan can still afford to buy six submarines from China. Pity their children are not higher up their list of priorities.

    Of course it is probably wrong to associate two such disparate things – Overseas Aid with the way Christians are treated in Pakistan – but we are a supposedly Christian country giving a lot of Aid to a country which treats Christians badly, and I do not think they will thank us for it – I think they will despise us for it.

  2. Peter Hulme Cross says:

    Roger,

    I left a comment here yesterday, Wednesday. It has not appeared. Did you decide not to publish it??

  3. John Kelly says:

    Perhaps we christians should employ our own blasphemy laws and execute anyone who publicly states that Jesus was not the sun of God

  4. Christopher Boxall says:

    Is anyone organising a protest maybe outside the Pakastani embassy?

  5. chris dawson says:

    Roger,

    I’m in no way religious, in fact if anything I’m anti-religion, but I am so grateful and relieved to discover your attention to the plight of this poor woman.

    This most certainly isn’t about a law, or even blasphemy, it’s most clear why this situation has arisen. We will never be able to rectify this mindset (however much aid we pour in) all we can do is try in some way to help those whom suffer from it’s venom.

    I can’t express just how important it is for me that you have nailed your colours to the mast on this.

  6. Carolyn says:

    I ache for this woman, I think about how long ago it was I heard about her story & all the things that have happened in my life & all the times I have hugged my kids & eaten a meal with my family & she has been facing a death sentence in a prison for what I freely have – this breaks my heart. Is there any progress on her case, any time set for a judgement on her appeal/pardon?

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