Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Our Concern For Appeal of Asia Bibi in Lahore High Court Lahore

Asia Bibi a resident of Ittanwali District Nankana Sahib, was maliciously implicated in blasphemy allegations. According to Asia Bibi, her family was in a personal dispute with the headman of the village. The dispute arose three months prior to the blasphemy allegations when a Christian girl relative of Asia Bibi and Muslim boy, a relative of headman of the village who eloped from the village.

Ashiq Masih a retired Army solider was asked by the Christian community of the village
to find out the whereabouts of the Christian girl from the headman. Following continual
demands from the Christian community the headman handed over the girl back to the community. Returning the girl to the Christians was a great insult to the headman, this turned into a personal feud.

Asia Bibi, was the head of a team working in a fruit garden 5 kilometers from her home, she was the only Christian women working in the fruit garden and her Muslim women co-workers were jealousy of her position. On June 11, 2009 a religious discussion took place between Asia and her coworkers Asma, Sitar and Yasmeen. The same dialogue took place on June 14, 2009 and this time Asia was fetching water and the coworkers refused to take water from her as she is a Christian. This turned into a heated discussion.

On June 18th, 2009 her co-workers complained to Qari Muhammad Saleem, a local Imam Masjid (prayer leader of local mosque) about Asia Bibi for passing derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet. The prayer leader involved the village headman and used his
loudspeaker to insight people to start an investigation.

On June 19, 2009 hundreds of enraged protesters gathered and attacked on the house of Asia Bibi and started beating Asia and the family members inhumanly. Later, Asia Bibi was rescued by the police and she was arrested. A case FIR no 326/2009 offence under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) registered against Asia Bibi at the Police Station Saddar Nankna Sahib by the complaint of Qari Muhammad Saleem. On November 08, 2010 Mr. Muhammad Naveed Iqbal ASJ, (Additional Sessions Judge), Nankana Sahib sentenced Asia Bibi to the death penalty and imposed fine of Rs. 100,000 (US$ 1200) in the event that the fine is not paid she is to be sentenced imprisonment for a period of six months.

Asia Bibi stated that she was never asked about the allegations and that even the Judge did not ask her about the allegations.

On 15th November S. K. Chaudhry represented Asia Bibi for the appeal at the Lahore High Court.

On 19th November the Former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer visited Asia bibi at the Sheikhpura jail and got the papers for the mercy appeal signed to present to the President of Pakistan.

Outrage and denunciations on this case are coming from across the world as many people are appalled at the sad state of rights for religious minorities in Pakistan. The Pope has intervened also asking for clemency for Asia Bibi from Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari. Against all manner of reason and justice, Lahore’s High Court recently issued an order on November 29, 2010, preventing Zardari from exercising his constitutional authority to pardon Asia Bibi.

15th December 2010 a local imam from Peshawar threatened that if she is pardoned or released, some people would “take the law into their own hands”. He announced US$6,000 as a reward whoever kills Asia Bibi.

On January 4, 2011, one of Taseer’s bodyguards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, shot him 26 times with a sub machine gun at Kohsar Market, Islamabad.

Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was also assassinated, on March 2, 2011, reportedly also for his position on blasphemy laws. He was shot dead by gunmen who ambushed his car near his residence in Islamabad.

On 12 October 2011 Asia Bibi was reportedly tortured by the female warden, she was suspended by the jail authorities.

Asia Bibi is allowed to meet her family every Tuesday. She is frail but high in spirit, she is hopeful that the high court will accept the plea for hearing which is pending since almost a year now.

An official statement by LEAD said” after the completion of one year but the LHC (Lahore High Court) has not accepted the plea for hearing against the verdict. The Islamabad High Court immediately accepted the plea against the verdict in Mumtaz Qadri`s case. Over 2000 lawyers and a former Chief Justice are supporting a self confessed assassin and the LHC is not even giving a date for hearing for the plea of an innocent woman. The biased judicial system is the reason for the delay in justice in the society. There are thousands of cases which are still pending in the high court for hearing. The Chief Justice must intervene and take immediate steps to ensure that justice is served. “

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