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(Voice of the Persecuted) Blasphemy charges have been dropped against an eight-year-old Christian boy in Quetta, Pakistan. The youngster ‘m’ and his mother were both accused of burning pages of the Quran, the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) told Voice of the Persecuted (VOP).
The incident is said to have taken place on October 20 and soon afterwards the police filed a report against them.
While the Christian boy and his mother remained behind bars, local Christian leader including JUIF’s (Jamait Ulema Islam F) Member of National Assembly Asiya Nasir in collaboration with the Christian MPs Member of Provincial Assembly Baluchistan William Barkat and Shahzad Kundan played a role in their release, CLAAS said.
The matter was resolved one day later when the JUI played a pivotal role in retrieving the Christian mother and son.
The blasphemy accusations were quashed while a FIR no. 167 was filed against unknown persons.
Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK told VOP this is not the first time that a minor has been charged with a blasphemy offence. He cited several examples like in 1993 when 12 yr. old Slamat Masih was charged under the blasphemy law for a crime he never committed. Also in 2011, a 13 yr. old Christian girl, F Bhatti was accused of blasphemy by her Muslim teacher for misspelling.
Rimsha Masih’s case is well-known and now an eight-year-old boy was charged with blasphemy.
He may have never have even heard the word of blasphemy. Unfortunately, this is the worst example of hatred and intolerance against Christians and treatment towards them in Pakistan, Mr Saeed said.
“The Government of Pakistan must look into such cases and take appropriate steps to bring necessary changes to stop the ongoing misuse of this law.
“The international community has continuously expressed its concern and called for amendments.”
In July 1986, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, III of 1986, S. 2. The passage of this Act amended Chapter XV of the Pakistan Penal Code, entitled “Offences Relating to Religion”, via the creation of Article 295-C.
View this short video which tells the story of the National Assembly session on 9 July 1986 leading up to the passage of the 295-C amendment. It was during this session that 295-C took on its final form and punishment by death was introduced into the legislation. As the video shows, Members of the National Assembly who supported the introduction of the death penalty claimed that their position was in accordance with the universal consensus of Islamic legal scholars throughout history. In fact, however, the position of those who supported the death penalty was based on misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the very scholars they claimed to be following. As such, this video seeks to educate the public about the real positions of these scholars.
We have to speak out. Despite the nation of Pakistan’s human rights abuses, the United Nations is planning a Pakistan Day on March 23rd to honor Pakistan and their goal for peace on the world stage. We must let our lawmakers know that this is a travesty. Release Asia Bibi, protect Christians and Women in Pakistan! Do away with the blasphemy law and then we’ll consider a celebration.
“She is a woman who, inundated by the grace of God, gives her blessing to her own story, a story which human reason can only see as wrong, twisted and unfortunate.”
PAKISTAN (ASSIST News Service) – For Asia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, this Christmas was shrouded in mercy.
A story by Paolo Affatato for La Stampa, an Italian newspaper published in Turin, reported that this was the seventh Christmas she spent behind bars, in the women’s prison in Multan. That’s a town in the province of Punjab, where Asia awaits the outcome of a re-examination of her blasphemy conviction.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court, the third and final stage in the trial, has accepted Asia’s petition to appeal against her death sentence. The wait is now on for a hearing date to be set so that he final verdict can be issued.
For this 50-year-old mother of five, Christmas in the Year of Mercy, is a celebration of forgiveness.
Despite her suffering and isolation and her awareness of the immense injustice she is experiencing, La Stampa said Asia is at peace.
La Stampa said, “She is a woman who, inundated by the grace of God, gives her blessing to her own story, a story which human reason can only see as wrong, twisted and unfortunate.”
Trusting in God’s Providence, Asia told members of her family who went to the prison to visit her on the morning of Christmas Eve, “Christmas is a celebration of God’s mercy. I forgive my persecutors, those who have made false accusations against me, and I await their forgiveness.”
These words, according to La Stampa, had a deep impact on Asia’s husband Ashiq Masih, her children and Joseph Nadeem, the family’s legal advisor and director of Lahore’s Renaissance Education Foundation.
The moment when they exchanged wishes was very moving.
Asia was happy, saying “Jesus has made this day a happy one for me and has listened to my prayers. I am moved and full of joy at being able to meet my family today and celebrate Christmas with you.”
Asia also recalled the moment that changed her life.
La Stampa reported she said, “Today also marks the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. May peace be with him on this day. I truly cannot imagine disrespecting him. But although I have been in prison for seven years, I do not hate those who have harmed me.”
She added, “I pray that the Prophet Mohammed will bestow wisdom on his followers so that peace can go on being built around the world. I pray that Jesus Christ will grant peace to the whole world.”
Asia’s husband, Ashiq, said that after the visit, his wife sent a request out to everyone following her story, to continue to pray for a positive outcome in the Supreme Court trial.
“May God the Almighty grant me freedom so that I can celebrate next Christmas with you, in peace and freedom,” she said.
Asia Bibi’s Christmas is an example of the way Christians are celebrating Christmas in Pakistan. They are “bearers of a message of harmony and hope,” said Khalil Tahir Sindhu.
He is a Catholic lawyer who has worked on the Asia Bibi case, as well as many other blasphemy cases against Christians. He is now minister for minorities and human rights in the provincial government of Punjab.
In order to avoid “new Asia Bibi” cases and eradicate the root cause of anti-Christian discrimination in Pakistan, La Stampa said Sindhu is using his political initiative to protect the rights of minorities.
As a result, the Punjab province has set up district committees for the promotion of religious harmony and has implemented a law that requires five percent of government jobs to be allocated to minorities.
Sindhu’s efforts were backed by Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, who at a meeting with Christian bishops stressed the important role religious minorities play in terms of the country’s “progress, defense, security and social stability.”
“Pakistan,” Hussain added, “will guarantee the well being and protection of our Christian brothers using all means possible,” recalling certain provisions that have already been adopted by the Pakistani government.
La Stampa said Sajjad Masih Gill hopes that these words will translate into actions. Gill is another Christian who was sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged blasphemy and presented his appeal to Lahore’s high court in recent days.
Pakistan is witnessing a disturbing trend in abuse of the blasphemy law that has ruined the lives of people such as Asia Bibi, Sajjad Masih Gill and many others: 1,400 such cases were reported in 2014, more than in any other year.
In 2014, La Stampa said, according to information from Pakistan’s human rights commission, the Pakistani courts sentenced three people to death, six people to life in prison and three more people to two years in prison for blasphemy.
Nisar Shar, a lawyer and spokesman for the Karachi bar association, said “it has become dangerous for lawyers to defend clients accused of blasphemy.”
Saiful Malook, Asia Bibi’s Muslim lawyer, is aware of these risks but has decided nevertheless to follow the case through until the final Supreme Court hearing, upon which Asia Bibi’s fate hangs.
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
People accused of violating Pakistan’s draconian “blasphemy laws” face proceedings that are glaringly flawed, said the ICJ in a new report published today.
“Pakistan’s blasphemy laws fly in the face of Pakistan’s international legal obligations, including the duties to respect the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “But even worse, those facing accusations of blasphemy suffer through trials that are often fundamentally unfair.”
In the 60-page report On Trial: the Implementation of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws, the ICJ has documented in detail systematic and widespread fair trial violations in proceedings related to blasphemy offences in Pakistan, particularly in trial courts.
Some of the problems documented in the report include:
- Intimidation and harassment of judges and lawyers that impede on the independence of the judiciary and the right to a defense;
- Demonstrable bias and prejudice against defendants by judges during the course of blasphemy proceedings and in judgments;
- Violations of the right to effective assistance of counsel;
- Rejection of bail and prolonged pre-trial detention;
- Incompetent investigation and prosecution that do not meet due diligence requirements under the law;
- The prosecution and detention of people living with mental disabilities;
- Inhumane conditions of detention and imprisonment, including prolonged solitary confinement.
Pakistan’s laws on “offences related to religion” – sections 295-298-C of the Penal Code that are commonly known as “blasphemy laws” – include a variety of crimes including misusing religious epithets, “defiling” the Holy Quran, deliberately outraging religious sentiment, and using derogatory remarks in respect of the Prophet Muhammad.
Sentences for these offences range from fines to long terms of imprisonment, and in the case of defamation of the Prophet Muhammad (section 295-C), a mandatory death sentence.
“Section 295 is a relic of the British colonial system that lends itself to human rights violations, including in Pakistan, India, Myanmar, and elsewhere,” Zarifi said. “In Pakistan, General Zia-ul-Haq made additions to the laws that made them truly draconian.”
Based on the analysis of over 100 judgments of the high courts and courts of first instance from 1986-2015 as well as interviews with defendants in blasphemy cases, their families, and defense counsel; judges, lawyers and police officials; and human rights activists, the report found:
- In 19 out of 25 cases under section 295-C (defamation of the Prophet Muhammad) studied by the ICJ, high courts have acquitted individuals convicted for blasphemy by trial courts. Glaring procedural irregularities and mala fide complaints are the grounds for acquittal on appeal in over 80 per cent of cases;
- Even in cases that ultimately result in acquittal, blasphemy proceedings suffer from undue delay – proceedings in trial courts can take on average three years, and appeals can take even longer, more than five years on average;
- Individuals accused of blasphemy under section 295-C are frequently denied bail even though they meet requirements under the law;
- Individuals detained pending trial or convicted for blasphemy are often kept in prolonged solitary confinement, at times, over a number of years.
The report also confirms concerns recently raised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan that individuals accused of blasphemy ‘suffer beyond proportion or repair’, in the absence of adequate safeguards against misapplication or misuse of such blasphemy laws, the Geneva-based organization says.
The ICJ has also made a number of recommendations to the Pakistani executive, legislative and judicial branches to address the defects in the framing of the blasphemy laws as well as of the shortcomings at the investigative, prosecutorial, procedural, administrative and judicial levels highlighted in the report to minimize the misuse of the blasphemy laws and ensure that those accused of blasphemy have a fair chance at defending themselves.
“It’s time Pakistan and other countries got rid of these noxious laws, which continue to stifle freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, and instead promote extremism and intolerance,” Zarifi added.
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – In Pakistan it is necessary to repeal the blasphemy law: this is what the “International Commission of Jurists” an organization consisting of more than 60 eminent jurists from around the world, with headquarters in Geneva ask for in a report sent to Fides. The organization criticized this legislation defined as “cruel” also for the punishment it provides: life imprisonment or death penalty.
The jurists are asking the government to “modify it because so it is in line with international standards on freedom of expression; freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, pointing out that the abuse of the law, used to resolve private disputes, regarding business or property is very common in Pakistan.
According to data of the “Justice and Peace” National Commission, 200 Christians, 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 21 Hindu have been charged with offenses related to “blasphemy” since 1987. But, given that religious minorities represent a very small percentage of the majority Muslim population “the number of Christians and members of other religious minorities accused is massively disproportionate to the number of Muslims accused, although the number of Muslims accused is overall higher”.
Out of 25 cases of appeals at the High Court for blasphemy, the International Court of Justice – the report notes – found that in most cases (60%), the applicants were acquitted after judges ruled that the charges brought against them were “fabricated or used for personal or political reasons.”
The Commission of Jurists immediately asks for the abolition of the death penalty for crimes of blasphemy and the urgent need to establish with certainty the intent of the offender, before condemning him. It also denounced the extrajudicial killings, remained unpunished, victims of whom are often those accused of blasphemy, although innocent. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/11/2015)
The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil has been speaking to the family of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi
Naeem Shakir, human-rights lawyer who is Asia Bibi’s defence counsel has strongly denounced the blasphemy law under which Asia has been sentenced to death. According to him the law is being used as the “tool of oppression.” Naeem Shakir, urged the international community to pressurize the Pakistani authorities to reform the law. “Sharing your concern from wherever you are is important,” he said, because “no change is forthcoming, due to the unavailability of any kind of dialogue. . . We do not find anywhere to seriously deliberate these issues.”
He went on to say, “Political actors are not concerned . . . to deliver justice. . . . They do not want to distress their constituencies by disturbing the religious extremists. There was now,” he said, “a wrong public impression, created by vested interests, that this law is . . . divinely mandated”, whereas it had been “framed by earthly men” and did a disservice to Islam, undermining the “basic principles of Islamic jurisprudence”. As a man-made law, it was “not static”, and could be reformed. “This law is flawed. This law is against the Qur’an and a tool of oppression.” The death penalty for blasphemy was recommended in Pakistani law in 1986. He went on to argue that as for those who present argument that, without the blasphemy law, people would take justice into their own hands, he said: “People are already doing that.” He pointed to the case of a Christian couple beaten and burned alive in a brick kiln in November after they were accused of blasphemy.
He pointed out the “contradictions” in the witnesses’ testimonies and a six-day delay in bringing the accusation against Asia Bibi. He further criticized that the atmosphere in courts also prevented the administration of justice, owing to the intimidating presence of “religious extremists”.
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Pray for the nation of Pakistan as they are facing growing radicalism, human rights abuses, discrimination and violence against religious minorities and women.
(Voice of the Persecuted) A mother of five, Asia Bibi has spent the last four years in prison in Pakistan for daring to drink water from a Muslim well. She is a Christian who has been tortured and persecuted for her faith in Christ. While working in a field along side other women, she became thirsty and went to the well to get a drink, her Muslim co-workers complained as a Christian, she had defiled the well. An argument ensued and Asia defended her faith to the Muslim co-workers who then tried to force her convert to Islam. She was arrested, tortured and later convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
Since her incarceration, Asia has faced extreme pressure to convert to Islam. At one point her family states that during interrogations she asked for a drink and they gave her urine. Though there has been a global outcry in support of Bibi, world leaders still haven’t championed for release her. In fact they have said very little about her death sentence. Meanwhile, Pakistan is one of the West’s biggest beneficiary of monetary aid—in the billions. They continue to overlook and allow abuses such as this to continue as radicalism grows. Silence is consent.
The world watched stunned, appalled and shocked as a Muslim mob tortured and burned a Christian couple in a brick kiln oven for what is now proven to be a false charge of burning Koranic verses. A couple who did not worship as they did. The lynch mob became judge, jury and executioner. Another man recently died in police custody enduring torture. Human rights abuses are rampant in this country as they follow a barbaric law that may lead to a death sentence simply for faith outside of the majority.
‘You are my only hope of staying alive in this dungeon, so please don’t abandon me,’ she said. ‘I did not commit blasphemy.’
Watch the story of Asia Bibi and then call or write your Senators and Representatives and tell them you expect them to call an emergency meeting and demand accountability from the Pakistan government. Tell them you expect them to initiate safeguards to prevent Pakistan’s government from going against their Constitution. Click here for a copy of a letter you can send. And please remember Asia, Keep her in daily in your prayers.
Below is a preview of an upcoming documentary of Asia Bibi’s blasphemy case and the danger to minorities in Pakistan.