(Voice of the Persecuted) LAHORE: Director Nasir Saeed of CLAAS, a Pakistani human rights organization working for religious freedom, to stop persecution of Christians in Pakistan because of blasphemy and other discriminatory laws, told Voice of the Persecuted that a three-member bench of the Lahore Supreme Court has granted Aasiya Noreen (also known as Asia Bibi) leave to appeal and stated that it is essential to examine her case for administration of justice.
The Supreme Court has also suspended the decision of the High Court which had upheld her death sentence granted from the lower court.
The court raised an objection over the 11-day delay in filing the appeal. However, it said that this objection would be taken up in the next hearing of the case. The court also asked if Bibi is in jail.
Asia Bibi, 49, – a mother of five – has been behind bars for the last six years, and was once attacked. She is presently still suffering from medical issues.
Bibi has been on death row since November 2010 when she was found guilty by the lower court of making blasphemous remarks during an argument with a Muslim woman.
Bibi was represented by her lawyer Mr Saiful Malook, while CLAAS lawyers Tahir Bashir and Rubina, who have campaigned for her release, were also present in the court.
The CLAAS Director said,
“Although today was a preliminary hearing, the suspension of the high court’s death sentence is a relief.
I believe that justice will be done by the Supreme Court and soon she will be freed.
The misuse of the blasphemy law is widespread in Pakistan and people are using this law to settle personal scores. And here are many innocent people who are suffering and languishing in prions for years because of its continuous misuse, while several people have been killed by vigilantes.”
In 2011, two high profile politicians – the then Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer and the only Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti were killed by extremists.
But the government still failed to bring changes or at least introduce safeguards to stop the misuse of this controversial law.
The Director concluded, “The world seems concerned about the misuse of the blasphemy law and there are several Pakistani and non-Pakistani organisation who are campaigning for its repeal.”
On an extremely hot day in 2009, Asia, a labor berry picker drank water from a nearby well. A religious argument broke out between her and her Muslim co-workers after she brought water for one of them. The co-worker objected that the mere touch of a Christian had made the water haram, defiled or religiously forbidden for Muslims. Bibi was told to convert to Islam in order to become purified of her ritual impurity. Her reply was perceived as an insult of Islam and hence she was accused of committing blasphemy—a charge often used against minorities. The case has been an extreme test of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws. The laws are widely criticized abroad, but popular in the Muslim-majority nation. News of Bibi’s case has circled the globe and pressure from the global community is believed to have aided in today’s decision by the courts.
During this period, hearings of her appeal case was either rescheduled or delayed countless times. Nonetheless, on October 16, 2014 the Lahore High Court sustained her death penalty after issuing a short order. Since her ordeal began, she was reportedly gang raped, abused, severely tortured and constantly pressured to convert to Islam. Her health is still a great concern.
This Pakistani Christian mother of five, has now been given a ray of hope. Please keep lifting up Asia and her family in your prayers. Pray for endurance and supernatural peace. May the Lord bless and reunite them.
Voice of the persecuted is aiding extremely persecuted Christians in Pakistan. Our contacts tells us tensions are high and they fear issues could become dangerous for them at any moment. Pray for peace in Pakistan.