Tag: blasphemy

Sentenced to death for blasphemy: The Asia Bibi Story

ASIA BIBI

On June 19, 2009, Asia Bibi (also known as Asia Noureen) was arrested on the grounds of blasphemy charges.

Asia, a Christian mother of 5, lived with her husband in Chak No. 3 Itanwali village in the Nankana Sahib district in Punjab province. The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement, a partner of Jubilee located in Pakistan, reported that only 5 Christian families were living in this village among 2,000 Muslim families. The Christians in this village usually work in brick kilns or other low-wage jobs.

Asia worked as a fruit picker in a produce field as the only Christian. Asia reported that she often felt discriminated against by her Muslim co-workers, but that she ignored it. On June 14, 2009, Asia was involved in an argument with two Muslim female co-workers. Asia was asked to retrieve water from a well, and as she was doing so she went to use an old metal cup to take some water for herself. One of her co-workers saw her and angrily told Asia that Christians were prohibited from drinking water from utensils used by Muslims because Christians are “unclean”. Her co-workers then made additional derogatory remarks about Christianity. Asia purportedly responded by saying that Jesus died on the cross for her sins, what did their prophet do for them?

June 18, 2009, days after the argument, one of the Muslim women told their Islamic cleric about the incident. Word spread, and a Muslim mob gathered at the produce field where Asia worked and grabbed her. They began physically assaulting her and some family members. Fortunately, the police came in time to save Asia from the mob and she was taken to the police station.

It has been reported that the woman who accused Asia of blasphemy did so because of a family vendetta against Asia’s family. False blasphemy accusations are highly common in Pakistan, especially among religious minorities as a method of revenge.

In November 2010, Asia was found guilty of the blasphemy charges and sentenced to death. If executed, Asia would be the first woman executed for blasphemy in Pakistan. Many have spoken out on behalf of Asia’s innocence, including Pakistani politicians, however, not without consequences. asia bibi

On January 4, 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was shot 27 times by his own bodyguard. He was adamant about the country’s need to dissolve its blasphemy laws, and was in favor of a mercy petition for Asia.

Two months later, on March 2, 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, was assassinated by the Tehrik- i-Taliban for opposing the country’s blasphemy laws. He was riding in his car when it was sprayed with bullets. He was also an outspoken advocate for Asia.

Asia’s case has been appealed, though the appeal was denied in 2014 by the Lahore High Court. In 2015 the Supreme Court stated that Asia’s death sentence would be suspended for the duration of its appeal process. Asia’s case has been postponed multiple times for various reasons. External pressure has been put on the courts, with Islamic leaders urging the courts to hang all those accused of blasphemy, and threatening to kill those who attempt to aid those accused.

Though justice has not yet been brought to Asia, believers worldwide still pray for her freedom, including Jubilee Campaign. Efforts have been made in the U.S. to urge Pakistan to repeal their blasphemy laws. In June 2015, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced H.Res. 290 “Calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws.” The resolution calls on the President and State Department to make repealing blasphemy laws a priority topic when dealing with countries with such laws. It also urges for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern by the State Department.

Source: Jubilee Campaign



Asia Bibi begins her appeal trial today: Prayers requested

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Asia Bibi

Dear all,

Today (13th October) at 9am Pakistan time, Asia Bibi begins her appeal trial at the Supreme Court of Pakistan located in Islamabad.

We are asking all our members to pray for her to be set free and to attain safety in a country in the west. A simple prayer but one that encompasses her basic needs for now.

British Pakistani Christian Association does not believe a decision will be made in court today. Even then our officer Shamim Masih will be in attendance and will immediately send us the result which we will share with you in real time, if necessary.

You can still sign our petition for Asia Bibi which will be in the hands of the Pakistani Government today. Our petition calls for Asia Bibi to be protected, for her to receive a fair trial and for President Mamnoon Hussain to do the right thing and pardon her if the law courts fail to uphold justice. If you have not signed it (click here) Please share our petition with others and see if we can reach 15,000 signatories or above.

Asia Bibi’s plight triggered the publication of our first ever book on persecution in Pakistan, a copy of which can be purchased (here). Since then we have written several further reports. Our latest report which will also be dedicated to Asia Bibi is to be launched in UK Parliament on the 1st of November 2016 at 1pm. If you would like a free invitation to attend please email us by clicking (here).

Wilson Chowdhry has met with several Politicians at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra. During a five hour series of meetings with politicians including Senator Eric Abetz, Senator David Fawcett, MP Kevin Andrews, MP Andrew Hastie and Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton, he discussed the potential for a quota for 100 Pak-Christians per year being given asylum in Australia. Wilson is now in communication with Tom Fleming (Senior advisor) and Craig Maclachlan (Chief of staff) at the Australian Ministry for Immigration who will be sharing existing streams for migration that could assist those wishing to flee Pakistan and those stranded in countries such as Thailand where they are re-persecuted. Moreover, we are working towards being included on the existing programme for Community Sponsorship, that will allow BPCA to act as a conduit for refugees with a quota restricted to 100 applicants. Read full story below this introduction.

We are collecting donations for Asia Bibi and her family to help support them after they seek asylum in a new country. The funds will help them with heavy costs involved with re-establishing their lives outside of Pakistan. We do not believe any western nation would refuse them entry should Asia Bibi be exonerated. The funds will enable us to continue to help the family after Asia Bibi is set free – a decision that is long overdue. If you would like to donate to our work please (click here)

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

Mr Wilson Chowdhry
Chairman BPCA  (British Pakistani Christian Association)

 

Update – Lunchtime 13 OCT 2016 – From Church in Chains

 

PAKISTAN: Supreme Court adjourns Asia Bibi’s appeal
13th October, 2016

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Asia’s husband, Ashiq Masih, outside the court

Asia Bibi’s long-awaited appeal against her conviction for blasphemy was adjourned today in Pakistan’s Supreme Court in Islamabad after one of the three judges recused himself from the case.

Asia was not in court for the appeal hearing but her husband Ashiq Masih was (picture shows him outside the court). The adjournment came after Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman told the court he had to recuse himself, claiming a conflict of interest. “I was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salman Taseer [the Governor of Punjab who was assassinated after supporting Asia Bibi], and this case is related to that,” he told the court. The judges wrote to the chief justice of Pakistan asking him to appoint another judge to the bench.

The Supreme Court did not immediately set a new date for the appeal though one of Asia’s lawyers is hopeful that it may be heard in early November.

There was heightened security in Islamabad with over 100 riot police deployed around the court and over 3,000 members of the security forces on standby elsewhere in the city. On the eve of the hearing, a Muslim extremist group, the “Shuhada Foundation”, said its supporters would take to the streets and would not allow the government to function if Asia were released.

“We are seriously concerned at the efforts for the release of blasphemous Asia Masih and will consider those blasphemous who defend her, whoever they are and in whichever position they are working,” said Hafiz Ehtesham Ahmad, spokesperson for the foundation. He also warned of “serious consequences” if Asia were allowed to go abroad.

Zohra Yusuf, chair of the independent Human Rights Commission in Pakistan, said that the appeal delay was “regrettable”, noting that Asia Bibi was already being held in solitary confinement due to security concerns. The judges may be “apprehensive”, she said, adding that after the Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold Mumtaz Qadri’s death sentence for assassinating Salman Taseer, justices had to sneak out the back door to the court. “It’s a sensitive case. I think they [the judges] have realised that if Asia Bibi [is] acquitted, they may be putting their own lives on the line,” Yusuf said.

(AFP, Express Tribune, Release International)

Reacting to the news, David Turner (Director, Church in Chains), stated: “We are very disappointed at the news of today’s adjournment. The judge who recused himself would have been aware of the conflict of interest as soon as he was appointed to the case and action could have been taken at that stage to allow today’s hearing to proceed.

“For Asia Bibi, justice has been delayed yet again and this innocent Christian woman who has languished in prison for 7 ½ years must continue to wait. We encourage our supporters to keep praying for Asia – that she will know that she is not forgotten, that she will know that God is with her and that justice will soon prevail”.