Lahore High Court upheld the death penalty sentence for Asia Bibi (49yr), a Christian woman and mother of five convicted of blasphemy in 2010. That the execution by hanging could be carried out, instilling fear among Christian refugees who have fled the country to avoid a similar sentence.
Bibi’s attorney’s plan to submit a final appeal to the Supreme Court, but there are fears this process could last a number of years leaving the woman to sit in prison away from her children.
Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims have lead to mob violence on multiple occasions.
Two politicians former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Bibi’s trial as flawed.
The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009.
She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women laborers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl. During the dispute faith became a topic and it is claimed Bibi said, “Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins…Our Christ is alive.” Later the women went to a cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations, which Bibi claims as false.
Religious clerics including Qari Saleem who brought forward the initial complaint against Bibi was present at the court today.
“We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today’s verdict, it’s a victory of Islam,” Saleem told AFP outside the courtroom as the clerics congratulated each other and chanted religious slogans.
Pakistan’s unfair blasphemy law has had much criticism from human rights groups, which are misused to settle personal scores.
Lawyers who defend people accused of blasphemy and judges seen as lenient also risk being accused of the crime and regularly face pressure and intimidation, receive death threats, some have been murdered.
Increasingly in Pakistan, devoted Christians face persecution by Muslim militants or prosecution by authorities for blasphemy.
VOP is in the process of helping to rescue a family facing this same charge. The claim is false, but the entire family is facing extreme persecution, including a small child. They have been forced into hiding and must move from safe house to safe house for protection. Please consider partnering with us in the support, legal fees and other accumulating cost in helping this suffering family. We can’t do it without you!