Asia Bibi: The World Waits
By Mel James, Safe World Staff - November 2010
This evening my eyes are red as I stare at the photo of one of my sisters awaiting her execution in Pakistan.·
Her name: Asia Bibi
Her fate: She has been sentenced to death by a local court in the town of Sheikhupura for the crime of blasphemy.
According to a UK newspaper - The Telegraph
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."
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.
Mrs Bibi has been held in prison since June last year.
INTERVENTION BY THE POPE
On the 17th November, in his general audience, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for clemency and expressed his “spiritual closeness to Ms Asia Bibi and her family while asking that, as soon as possible, she may be restored to complete freedom”.
The Pope further asked that “human dignity and fundamental rights may be fully respected” for Asia and all in similar horrific situations across the globe.
Her husband has appealed to the public to “spread this news all over the world and appeal for prayer for me, my wife, and our children”.
Asia’s lawyer has launched an appeal and filed her case with the Lahore high court.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
"The blasphemy law is absolutely obscene and it needs to be repealed in totality,"
Human Rights Watch spokesman Ali Dayan Hasan told AsiaNews. "It is primarily used against vulnerable groups that face social and political discrimination. Heading that category are religious minorities and heterodox Muslim sects," he said.
“The Blasphemy law is often used as a tool to settle personal differences, 85 per cent of such cases are false cases,”
Federal Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti said. Speaking to AsiaNews, he added, “Many innocent people have been victims in false blasphemy cases. The lower courts give their verdict, but such cases are never proven in higher courts. As for Asia Bibi`s case, I will not comment on the Court`s verdict, but she has a chance of appeal at the High Court and the Supreme Court. There are chances of getting acquitted in the case, I have written a letter to the IG (Inspector General) Police requesting security for Asia Bibi."
At the same time, “The government is reviewing the Blasphemy laws and working on procedures to ensure that the Blasphemy law is not misused. Amendments will soon be introduced to avoid any false accusations,” the minister said.
Asia Bibi's husband, Ashiq Maisha, speaking in Punjabi toAsiaNews said:
"Asia had been very strong in prison. She is different now. She is mentally stressed. She is very scared for her life and for the life of her family".
"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."
Many of us are closely watching the situation, and hope that the high court may consider Asia’s case and overturn the decision to end her life.