.

For current news please visit the new website

http://incontextministries.org/index.php/investigate/heroes-of-faith/10-heroes-of-faith/44-asia-bibi

10 Jan 2013 - Italian government appeals on behalf of Asia Bibi (ASSIST)

(ASSIST) 10 January 2013 -  Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi has given instructions to its embassy in Islamabad to appeal to the Pakistani authorities on behalf of Asia Bibi.

 

Asia Bibi

She is the Pakistani Christian woman held since 2009 and condemned to death on the charge of blasphemy.

 

According to a news release from Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this underscores the Italian government’s expectation that the sentence would be revoked.

Sources at the foreign ministry said Terzi’s intention was to add his voice to that of daily newspaper “Avvenire”, which launched an appeal fully aligned with the efforts that Italy has been making since the start of the Asia Bibi issue.

The news release said that hopes for her immediate release have been expressed to the Pakistani authorities. Terzi personally expressed the same wish in his meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Rabbani Khar during the NATO Summit in Chicago.

The news release said Italy has also been engaged in intense diplomatic efforts in support of Asia Bibi in Brussels within the framework of the strategic EU-Pakistan dialogue.

“The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the EU,” Terzi said in the news release, “in addition to being an outstanding sign of recognition, must also act as a strong incentive to the community institutions’ ever-greater commitment to the defense of human rights and freedom of worship, indispensable preconditions for the peaceful co-existence of peoples.”

-------------------------------

(ASSIST)  http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2013/s13010030.htm

                            Asia Bibi

18 November 2012 - Asia Bibi’s spouse begs Spain for asylum

By Dan Wooding - Founder of ASSIST Ministries

MADRID, SPAIN (ANS) -- The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, sentenced to death for blasphemy, appealed to Spain on Thursday to help free her and grant her asylum.

According to AFP, Ashiq Masih met with Spain's junior foreign minister Gonzalo de Benito in Madrid and spoke to journalists afterwards alongside Masih's daughter Sidra, 19, one of his and Asia Bibi's five children.

"We are very happy and have great faith that this country will help free my wife," Masih said via an interpreter.

He said the family had received threats since Bibi was sentenced to death in November 2010 after women claimed she insulted the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). Bibi is currently in jail pending an appeal.

"She is protected in prison and they are treating her well, but she is having a hard time because she is very far from her family and is suffering psychologically," Masih said.

"We live in hiding in Pakistan and we are very afraid. They say we have blasphemed against Mohammed (PBUH) and that they are going to kill us," he added.

Masih appeared alongside representatives of Hazte Oir, a Spanish Catholic campaign group which organized his visit.

"The group's president Ignacio Arsuaga added that the ministry said 'it is quite prepared to grant asylum as soon as Asia Bibi herself requests it' and was always willing to help in her defense," said the AFP story, adding, "Bibi's sentencing in 2010 sparked an international outcry."

1 September 2012 - Use prudence in the case of Asia

(CNA/EWTN News).  The Church in Pakistan said that all of the efforts to prevent the execution of Catholic mother Asia Bibi requires prudence on the part of her defenders.

According to Gaudium Press, the director of the National Committee on Justice and Peace of the Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, Father Emannuel Yousaf Mani, said the concern about the international campaigns to help Bibi is understandable.  “But the life of this woman is very important to us, and we will do nothing to endanger her life...We should wait in silence for the Court to hear her appeal.”

Bibi's case gained worldwide attention in 2010 when she was condemned to death for allegedly violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which state that anyone who offends Islam will be hanged. Critics say the country's blasphemy laws are often unjust and have become a tool for abusing religious minorities as
well as vengeance between Muslims.

Bibi is still awaiting a ruling on the appeal of her death sentence and has been moved to an isolated cell without any windows, sink or toilet because of Muslim threats against her life.

Fr. Yousaf said that caution on the part of the Church in Pakistan arises from concerns that those who “pressured for an indult in favor of Bibi ended up being killed by Muslim extremists.”

A “pardon amidst a climate of contentious public opinion,” he added, “would not necessarily save the lives of Asia Bibi and her family.”

At INcontext we request that we honour this request and use the only alternative solution to our disposal, and the most powerful weapon available; LET US PRAY! 

2 August 2013 - Video on youtube about Asia Bibi

A song appeared on YOUTUBE that makes an apeal to Christians to pray for the release of Asia Bibi.  Visit the following website to view the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oe8_Pjaedes&feature=player_embedded 

20 July 2012 - Asia is in good health

INcontext received an email from a Release International worker today reporting as follows:  

This is to inform you that I visited Asia Bibi in prison recently and she is doing well and looked in good coondtion

Even though the message is short we rejoice in hearing this good news and ask that you continue to pray for Asia and her family

Pakistani Christian demand immediate release of Asia Bibi (PCP)

PCP - 18 July 2012Karachi: “Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a country where justice is never ensured to religious minorities” said Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC in a statement issued by Central Secretariat of PCC.

Nazir Bhatti expressed concern over pending of an appeal in Lahore High Court from 2 years of a Christian mother Asia Bibi, sentenced to death on accusations of blasphemy from lower court.

In Islamic Republic of Pakistan judicial activism is so high that thousands of poor Pakistani are behind bars waiting for hearing dates of their appeals in Supreme Court of Pakistan and Provincial High Courts from years.

Nazir Bhatti said “Pakistani Christian have lost their confidence in judicial system, judiciary and higher courts because it protected and released Muslim who attacked Churches, killed worshipers, burnt alive women and children, gunned down pastors, never punished Muslims who filed false blasphemy cases against Christians, never charged Muslim who enforcedly converted Christian women to Islam and gang raped Christian girls after kidnapping”

In recent polls conducted by Pakistan Christian Post, 85% voted for immediate release of Asia Bibi who is under mental stress in security cell of Seikhupura Jail on her long pending appeal in Lahore High Court.

According to sources close to PCP, Ashiq Masih who is husband of Asia Bibi can visit her once a month and her daughters fear to visit their mother after threats from Muslims of their native village that if courts released Asia Bibi, they will kill her and her family.

Nazir Bhatti said that Pakistan Christian Congress PCC file a petition in Lahore High Court to repeal blasphemy law which was dismissed in 1998 but PCC urges Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo-Mottu notice to issue decree on this Islamic law of blasphemy weather it can be imposed on non-Muslims to prove that Justices are on bench od SCP not Mullahas.

Nazir S Bhatti appealed President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon Asia Bibi due to her ill health that she may have medical support.

----------------------------------

 Pakistan Christian Post http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/headlinenewsd.php?hnewsid=3625

Free Asia Bibi campaign launched by British 'Electo-pop' music group (ANS)

ANS - 8 July 2012An all-out media blitz has been started to raise awareness for Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian mother of five children who has been sentenced to death by hanging for defending her Christian beliefs.

According to www.indcatholicnews.com , the *Free Asia Bibi* campaign includes the release of a song titled *Free Asia Bibi*, a music video and an informational website, created by Christian electo-pop band, Ooberfuse.

The music video features a disturbing visual portrayal of the squalid prison conditions where Asia Bibi is being held. She is the first woman in Pakistan’s modern history to be sentenced to death by hanging.

Ooberfuse band member Hal, said: “When we were invited to be involved in this project we knew very little about the life and significance of Asia Bibi. We started reading all of the press accounts of her trial and condemnation to death.”

Ooberfuse stumbled across Asia Bibi’s autobiography, which had been written in French with the help of a journalist.

They then set out to translate it to English and were horrified by the profound injustice of her situation.

In the last paragraph of the autobiography Asia says: “Now that you know me, tell those around you what is happening; let them know about it. This is the only chance I have of being freed from this dungeon.”

Cherrie, the front-woman of Ooberfuse stated: “We want the world to not just hear her story, but to do something about it! - If you’re based in the UK, please join us outside the Pakistan embassy on Thursday, June 14.”

To learn more about Asia Bibi please visit: http://www.freeasiabibi.co.uk  

Watch the Ooberfuse video at http://youtu.be/oe8_Pjaedes  

The song can be downloaded at: http://ooberfuse.bandcamp.com/track/free-asia-bibi?permalink

All proceeds to be donated for the benefit of Asia Bibi’s family via the British Pakistani Christian Association. 

---------------------------------

Article by By Michael Ireland, Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2012/s12060033.htm 

5 April 2011 - No pardon after all.

No pardon after all? That’s the latest report regarding Asia Bibi, a 45-year old Pakistani woman sentenced to death for her Christian beliefs.

According to this week’s Washington Post, “Pakistan’s president will not immediately pardon a Christian woman sentenced to die for insulting Islam but may do so later if an appeals court delays her case too long, an official said Thursday.”

Why the change? The article does not say, but does refer to the recent demonstrations in Lahore and other cities where Muslims have protested the original pardon.

This is important for two reasons. First, keep praying for Asia Bibi. She has been in jail for over a year already for allegedly blaspheming Mohammad and her Christian beliefs. Pray specifically for her quick release and to be reunited with her children.

Second, activism works (at least in this situation). Share this on your Facebook and Twitter. Email it to a friend. Get your church, parish, denomination, or other religious groups involved. Add Asia Bibi to every prayer list and petition you can.

Religious freedom is a basic human right for it is one of the most comprehensive of all human endeavors.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/activistfaith/2010/12/update-on-asia-bibi-case-in-pakistan.html#ixzz1r9UCKRH8

6 March 2012 - Feathered hope for Asia in prison

Do you remember the story of Elijah being fed by the ravens? Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother imprisoned in Pakistan, has received hope and encouragement in a similar way. Asia has remained in jail since her arrest on blasphemy charges in June 2009. A Pakistani court found her guilty of blasphemy in June 2010 and sentenced her to death. But God has not forgotten her!

Asia shared this story with a Voice Of the Martyrs contact who recently visited her in prison:

There is a beautiful thing that happens every day in my cell. Two days after they announced my death penalty, I was brought into [death row]. Every morning around 3:30 or 4, a brown bird with a long beak appears and sits on the boundary wall. This bird also comes every evening around 5. He sits there for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Later on he became my friend. I talk to him and he also talks to me.

As I watched this bird every day, I tried to understand the meaning of him coming day after day. I think this is a messenger from God giving me His message. When the bird comes, I feel encouraged and peaceful. I feel comforted after his visit. I think this is a very significant sign from God.

Asia also reported that she spends much of her time in prayer, including prayer for those around the world who pray for her and speak out on her behalf.

23 January 2012 - Accuser admits his charges are phony (ANS)

(ANS) 23 January 2012 - The case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistan Christian mother-of-five who was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, has taken an extraordinary turn.

According to a story monitored by the ASSIST News Service, Qari Salam, who accused Bibi of blasphemy charges, which resulted in a jail sentence and possible hanging, is reported to have “ostensibly” regreted filing a blasphemy charge against the impoverished Christian woman.

“The source of his guilt – realization that the case was not based on facts but on hyped religious emotions and personal bias of some village women, including his wife,” said the story posted at:http://www.topix.com/forum/religion/islam/T72AF1K9C8RL3C6TG

Bibi has been languishing in Sheikhupura jail since a sessions court gave her a death sentence for insulting Prophet Muhammad.

Qari, according to some of his close friends, was now thinking of not pursuing the case anymore and expressed his desire to some of his friends, only to find himself in a difficult situation when activists of an Islamic religious organization “convinced” him not to change his mind.

“We will chase her through hell … don’t worry about the money, hiring best lawyers,” Salam told The Express Tribune, quoting the son of Khatm-e-Nabuwat’s London chapter’s leader.

The leader’s son flew in to Nankana from London after hearing that Salam might not go to Lahore High Court (LHC) when the review petition against Asia’s conviction is taken up.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(ANS) Pakistan: Asia Bibi’s accuser is said to have admitted that his charges are phony 

http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2012/s12010128.htm 

31 December 2011 - Asia is in "good spirits"

Picture of Asia comforting her daughter

By Dan Wooding- Founder of ASSIST Ministries

SHEIKPURA, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Condemned Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi, is in "good spirits" after spending another Christmas separated from her family as she awaits an appeal against her death sentence for "blasphemy" in a Pakistani prison.

Asia Bibi

This has been revealed by a team from the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an interdenominational organization working for Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan, who paid a recent visit along with Asia's husband to see her.

Bibi is locked in the women's prison Sheikpura (Punjab), sentenced to death by the "black law" pending appeal, and is still awaiting the High Court of Lahore to set a date for it.

She has been in jail since June 2009, when she was falsely accused of making derogatory remarks about Muhammad. She is being kept in isolation for her own safety.

"The CLAAS monitoring team paid a visit to Asia Bibi to assess her treatment in prison and the security provisions made for her," said a story posted at www.claas.org.uk. "The visit on Christmas Eve was made out of concern for her well-being following reports in the media that she had been tortured in prison."

Asia explained to the CLAAS team that she had in fact been mistreated by a female guard in October. The guard, named Khateja, had been appointed to Asia by the jail authority and was initially caring towards her.

"Unexpectedly, the guard started behaving offensively," she told the CLAAS team. "I tried my level best to ignore her but in vain. On the day of the incident, the guard wanted to use my toilet, which is not allowed, and unexpectedly she forced me to open my cell door. I refused to open it and upon this, she tried to hound me but I was able to defend myself.

"After hearing the noise in the cell, the other guards rushed into the cell and rescued me. Afterwards the guard was suspended from her duties for her misconduct."

The team visiting Asia was headed by CLAAS National Director Joseph Francis and included CLAAS Program Officer, Katherine Sapna, and CLAAS Research Officer, Nadeem Anthony.

They found her to be in good physical and mental health but upset at the reality of being away from her three children for so long.

They and her husband were able to visit Asia in prison on December 22.

"I am suffering because of false allegations of blasphemy and being falsely blamed for disrespecting the Holy Prophet," she told the CLAAS team. I never spoke a single word against the dignity of Islam. Nor can I think about insulting the honor of the Holy Prophet.

"The blasphemy allegations are totally baseless."

Asia expressed her anger with the officers investigating her case over their failure to follow proper procedure and ask for her account of events.

Despite the difficulty of being in prison for so long and the remaining uncertainty about whether her death sentence for blasphemy will be overturned, Asia's faith remains strong.

"The grace of God is with me and I am happy in God and always will be happy in God," she said.

"I am daily praying for my country and praying to God that the Lord may protect Pakistan from all harm.

"I am especially praying for those who are giving a bad image of Pakistan in the world and am also praying for those who falsely implicate me, that the Lord gives them wisdom so that they may not implicate the innocents in such cases."

Asia said she was saddened by the murders of Governor Salman Taseer and Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who spoke out on the misuse of the blasphemy law and tried to protect her.

She also pleaded with the international media to report accurately on her imprisonment as false reports about her health and other aspects of her imprisonment have "hurt" her.

At the same time, she encouraged people to continue praying for her.

"I am thankful for those who are praying for me and my family," she said. "Please continue your prayers because I need your prayers. By the grace of Almighty God I am alright and praying for my safe exit from the false blasphemy charges."

She added: "I want to wish a merry Christmas and very happy, prosperous and peaceful New Year to my fellow citizens as well as brothers and sisters internationally.

"I am satisfied with the security arrangements provided me by the jail authority and am also praying for them."

CLAAS also found the security arrangements for Asia to be satisfactory and hopes that the international media will be mindful of the sensitivity of the case in their reporting.

"We are still very much concerned for Asia and the other blasphemy prisoners in Pakistan who are suffering as a result of the discriminatory practices of the judicial system and grossly inadequate prison system," said a CLAAS spokesperson.

"We remain committed to advocating for the fair and equal treatment of Christians in Pakistan, free from hatred, discrimination, violent attacks and mistreatment by extremists in the name of religion."

CLAAS UK Coordinator Nasir Saeed said: "Asia Bibi continues to demonstrate remarkable strength of spirit despite the challenges she faces in overturning the death sentence handed to her for blasphemy. We see in her plight the very real suffering that the unjust application of the law is causing for Pakistan's Christians. What 2012 holds for Asia is difficult to say at this point.

"We continue to pray for a miracle for her and all other blasphemy prisoners. In the long-term, however, the only way to secure real and lasting change for Christians is reform of the blasphemy law and we will be campaigning hard for this throughout the year."

27 December 2011 - Asia Bibi Gives Exclusive Interview

By Michael Ireland - Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- In Pakistan, the law is often used to settle grudges, persecute minorities and fan the rage of the Islamic devout.

Pamela Geller, the publisher of http://www.atlasshrugs.com/  and the author of the WND Books title "Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance," says the same thing is coming here in the US.

In a Christmas Day edition of the American Thinker, http://www.americanthinker.com/ , she writes: "The recent cancellation of my event by a Houston hotel, and the subsequent cancellation of an anti-Sharia conference in Nashville represent the first stage of the application of Islamic blasphemy laws here in America.

"Where full-on Sharia is enforced, 'blasphemers' get the death penalty. Here in America, your character is assassinated."

Asia Bibi is a Christian woman facing death under Pakistan's notorious blasphemy law for insulting Islam. She has just spent her third Christmas in prison.

Geller says: "As part of my work to aid those whose lives are threatened for leaving Islam, I have been in touch with Asia through the Pakistani journalist and human rights activist "John" (name removed for secutity reasons.)

"John is the Regional Director in Islamabad of the Masihi Foundation, which works for the human rights and education of Pakistani Christians. John recently visited Asia Bibi in prison and asked her questions I gave him."

Here are Bibi's answers:

Pamela Geller: What happened when you were arrested?

Asia Bibi: When I was arrested, I was assaulted and harassed by the police. I was in a state of shock for many days. I fasted and prayed. My family has been in trouble; they have been moving one place to another. But I have forgiven the Muslims who put me and my family in this situation.

PG: How are you being treated?

AB: I live in a confined cell. I am allowed to go out for only 30 minutes every day, and allowed to meet my family for one hour every Tuesday. I am given raw material to cook for myself, since the administration fears I might be poisoned, as other Christians accused of blasphemy were poisoned or killed in the jail. The security on my duty is polite. Last week, a few hot words were exchanged with the warden over a minute issue, and she tried to strangle me. She has been suspended.

PG: What are your expectations for the future?

AB: I pray and fast. I want to be with my family, hug my daughters, kiss them. I am waiting for a date from the Lahore High Court for the appeal regarding my death sentence.  All is supporting my family and has hired a lawyer for the case. A petition has been filed at the Lahore High Court asking them to accept the case for hearing. I am hopeful that I will be released, although there is a bounty of about $8,000 offered by the Islamic clerics to anyone who will kill me. I have left everything on God, I will accept His will.

PG: Do you have a message for the Christians of the U.S.?

AB: I request them to pray and do something for the Christians in Pakistan who are suffering and persecuted. There are many other Christians in jails who need help. The Christians in the U.S. can help the human rights organizations who fight for the persecuted, and become the voice of the voiceless.

PG: Is there any way Americans can help you?

AB: They can pray and ask their government and representatives to do something for the persecuted Christians.

PG: What do you think of the Pakistani blasphemy law?

AB: Blasphemy law is a manmade law. It is being misused in Pakistan to settle personal vendettas, it should be repealed or at least amended. It has claimed so many innocent lives. I have also been falsely accused.

PG: What is the general situation of Christians in Pakistan?

AB: It's not very good. The Christians specially in the villages are living the worst life. They are mistreated, abused and framed for false cases, as they cannot afford to fight for their rights. The NGOs need support to help them; they are denied government jobs and not given respect. Only 10% of the Christians are able to get good jobs and are settled only because they are educated. The odd jobs in the country are reserved only for the Christians.

Geller says John also talked with Asia's daughters. Her daughter Alishba said, "We are praying and fasting for our mother so that she can be with us. I visit her with my father and each time I meet her, I can't stop myself, and tears pour out. My mother tries to hold my hand through the gaps between the grilled window and says, 'Have faith in the Lord, He will bring me home one day.' Every time I hear these words, I cry to the Lord to bring back my mother so that we can be with her again."

Asia's youngest daughter said: "It has been months since I last saw my mother. I am scared. I just see her pictures and can't control my tears. I fear that I will not be able to see my mother in the condition she is in. As I have the pleasant memories of her when she was with us, I cannot even imagine what she is going through. There are times I even lose all the hope of seeing her ever again, so I want to keep the memories of her smiling and playing with us. If she comes back to us, I will forget this whole thing as a bad dream."

22 December 2011 Condemned Christian mother Asia Bibi spends third Christmas behind bars (ANS)

(ANS) 22 December 2011 - Lahore, Pakistan - Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi is spending a third Christmas separated from her family as she awaits an appeal against her death sentence for “blasphemy” in a Pakistani prison.

Barnabas Fund (http://www.barnabasfund.org/ ) says Asia has been in jail since June 2009, when she was falsely accused of making derogatory remarks about Muhammad. She is being kept in isolation for her own safety, and is able to see her children only twice a year because of the security risk to them.

According to Barnabas Fund the family had an emotional reunion on December 13, carefully organized by a Christian couple who run the school that Asia’s daughters attend.

In a media update, Barnabas Fund said: “When the incarcerated mother saw her children, she naturally wanted to hug and kiss them, but was not initially allowed any contact.”

The school director pleaded with the jail authorities and obtained permission for the family to meet in a separate room. He said: “Asia gave lots of hugs and kisses to the children; it was a moment where the mother could shower her love upon her children. It was a wonderful moment provided by the Lord Jesus Christ to the family of Asia Bibi.”

He added that joy turned to sorrow when it was time to say goodbye, stating, “Asia started crying and praying to God for His mercy and freedom so that she could stay with her family with peace and love.”

Barnabas Fund helps Asia’s family

On a recent trip to Pakistan, a Barnabas Fund staff member met with Asia’s husband Ashiq Masih and daughters, Sidra (18), Esha (13) and Eisham (12), who is disabled.

Barnabas Fund reported that Ashiq is unable to go out to work because of the risk to his safety; families of those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan are frequently targeted by Islamist extremists. The family are receiving support from the Christian community, especially from the daughters’ school, but are in great need.

Barnabas Fund is helping the family by providing them with a monthly food parcel and also funding other needs such as winter bedding, warm clothing and Christmas gifts for the children.

The Barnabas Fund report stated: “Our staff member said that, despite their ordeal, the family is remaining strong in their faith, and that Asia in particular is growing in her trust in the Lord as she spends time praying and occasionally fasting in jail.”

The staff member said: “They are assured that people are praying for them and caring for them. The children are of course missing their mother terribly but have not given up hope that they will one day be together as a family again.”

Appeal delayed

According to Barnabas Fund, Asia was sentenced to death for "defiling the name of Muhammad" -- a charge she strongly denies -- in November 2010.

“An appeal has been lodged before the Lahore High Court, but the case has been delayed and is unlikely to be heard soon because of the controversy and Muslim hostility surrounding it. Two Pakistani politicians, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, have been assassinated because of their support for Asia and opposition to the blasphemy laws that condemned her,” Barnabas Fund explained in its report.

"Defiling the name of Muhammad" carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan.

Please Pray:

**That the Lord will work wonderfully in the Pakistani justice system and that Asia will be released soon.

**That Asia and her family will be kept safe from all harm and that all their needs will be met.

**That the God of hope will fill Asia and her family with all joy and peace as they trust in him, so that they may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). 

---------------------------

By Michael Ireland

ASSIST News Service 

14 December 2011 - Canadian Parliament urges release (ANS)

(ANS) 14 December 2011 - The leader of the Central Council of Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) has praised a resolution from the Canadian Parliament urging the Pakistani Government to release Asia Bibi.

 

According to a story by the Pakistan Christian Post (PCP), in a message to the Prime Minister and members of the Parliament and Senate of Canada, PCC’s Raymond Durrani said, “We believe that finally it is sinking in the minds of the members that causes like these must not be ignored, and for that we at Pakistan Christian Congress commend you wholeheartedly.”

PCP said Canadian officials resolved, “That the House of Commons joins the Senate of Canada in calling upon the Government of Pakistan to immediately release Ms. Asia Bibi, to ensure her safety and well being, to hear the outcry of the international community and to respect the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

PCP reported Bob Dechert, Member for Mississauga-Erindale (CPC) speaking in the House said, “Last November, the Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a statement concerning Asia Bibi's incarceration in Pakistan under its blasphemy law. At the time, the Government of Canada registered its concerns with Pakistan at the highest levels. We have also called on the Government of Pakistan to repeal laws criminalizing blasphemy which restrict religious freedom and expression, and target religious minorities.”

PCP said Dechert added, “We remember the brave stance taken by Governor Taseer and Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, both of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their promotion of the rights of religious minorities, tolerance and legal reforms. The promotion and protection of human rights are an integral part of Canada's foreign policy.”

Dechert called on Pakistan to release Bibi, and to ensure equal rights and equal protection for all members of minority communities.

PCP said addressing the House, Phil McColeman, Member for Brant (CPC) said, “I am deeply concerned over the sentencing of a woman to death for blasphemy in Pakistan. Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by a local court on November 8. I hope that this judgment and any others like it will be swiftly struck down on appeal.”

He added, “My colleague, Senator Salma Ataullahjan, who has been visiting Pakistan, registered Canada's concerns with the sentencing of Asia Bibi in a meeting with the Pakistani foreign minister.”

PCP said he continued to say that Canada has repeatedly urged the Government of Pakistan to repeal laws criminalizing blasphemy, which restrict freedom of religion and of expression. These laws, he said, have disproportionately targeted religious minorities.

PCP said the Canadian parliamentarian vowed that Canadian officials will continue to encourage federal and provincial authorities in Pakistan to respect the country’s international human rights obligations, and to ensure the safety and well-being of all of its citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

Durrani concluded, “We admire the courage of the members of the Canadian Parliament and members of the Canadian Senate, and thank them from the bottom of our hearts. We really believe that someday members of the Christian nation in Pakistan will enjoy the same freedom and rights in their own country as the Canadians and citizens of other countries around the world.”

-------------------------------------------------------------------

(ANS) Canadian Parliament Urges Release of Asia Bibi Sentenced to Death in Pakistan for Blasphemy 

http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2011/s11120055.htm

Article by Jeremy Reynalds 

21 October 2011 - Asia Bibi beaten in prison

Christian woman, husband apparently pressured into denying incident. By Murad Khan - Compass Direct

 

SHEIKHUPURA, Pakistan, (Compass Direct News) – A female prison officer assigned to provide security for a Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death on “blasphemy” charges beat her earlier this month, sources said.


Sources in Pakistan’s Sheikhupura District Jail said Asia Noreen, also known as Asia Bibi, was beaten on Oct. 5 by a prison officer identified only as Khadeeja, allegedly because of the Muslim officer’s anti-Christian bias, while other staff members deployed for her security looked on in silence.


Noreen, mother of two children and stepmother to three others, was sentenced to death last November after her conviction for blaspheming Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, after a verbal disagreement with some women in the village of Ittanwali, near Lahore.

 

The prison sources said Deputy Superintendent of Sheikhupura Jail Ghafoor Anjum did not initially take any action against Khadeeja for attacking Noreen – who is being kept in a special high-security cell due to serious threats on her life – despite learning about the incident immediately after it took place.


Khadeeja was later suspended for three months, and jail Superintendent Sheikh Khalid began an inquiry of her actions after an intelligence agency reported the matter to the Punjab Province government. The Home Department also sent a senior police official to Sheikhupura to investigate, and he recommended Khadeeja’s immediate removal from service, sources said.


Based on communications with jail staff members, a source told Compass on condition of anonymity that Noreen had not received any life-threatening injuries, but that jail personnel had apparently pressured the Christian woman and her husband to refrain from telling anyone about the incident. He said that although it was confirmed that Noreen had been beaten, prison officials have apparently pressured her and her husband, Ashiq Masih, to say only that the female prison officer got angry with Noreen over a trivial matter and that jail staff intervened in time before she could attack her; otherwise, Masih could lose his visitation rights.


“It seems that Ashiq has been pressured by the jail authorities to say that Khadeeja did not attack Asia,” the source said. “Why would the jail superintendent suspend Khadeeja for three months, and why would the inquiry officer recommend her removal from service, if she just ‘got angry with Asia’ over a minor issue?”


The source said that two false versions of the incident were circulating in the jail. Some staff members claimed that Khadeeja had asked Noreen to let her use the cell washroom and beat her when she refused, while others said that the guard had objected to the presence of some “prohibited articles” in Noreen’s possession and thrashed her when she refused to give them up.


“Both versions of the incident are absurd,” the source said. “Why did Khadeeja want to use the prisoner’s washroom when she could have gone to the staff restrooms? Asia’s the prisoner, not Khadeeja. Could anyone also explain how Asia managed to sneak in ‘prohibited items’ in her cell, and only Khadeeja objected to it?”


He added that the beating clearly showed the anti-Christian motive of the prison officer.


“The jail authorities are trying their best to hush up the matter as soon as possible, as it is a big embarrassment to the government,” he said.


The source said the attack reminded him that former Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer, who along with Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was rallying for Noreen’s release, was killed by his own security guard. Bhatti also was later slain for defending Noreen and opposing the blasphemy laws.


“There should be a more thorough vetting of people being assigned security duties,” he said, adding that the staff members who witnessed the beating yet kept silent should also be suspended.

 
While reluctant to admit that the Muslim prison officer had beaten Noreen, a jail official acknowledged that Noreen had struck back in self-defense. Though adamant that Noreen was safe in custody, he said the incident had negatively affected her security and authorities were considering transferring her to another prison.

 

“It was an unfortunate incident, as we had been keeping Asia’s location secret for the last many months, but this episode has blown our cover,” a senior jail officer requesting anonymity told Compass. “We made the best possible arrangements for her security. She is kept in a separate cell with a closed circuit camera to monitor her security round-the-clock. More than 10 wardens have been especially deployed around her barrack. She has been strictly forbidden from eating anything offered by any unauthorized personnel. Asia is safe in our custody, and all possible efforts will be made to ensure her security.”

 

Conviction under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law for derogatory comments about Muhammad is punishable by death, though life imprisonment is also possible. Section 295-B makes willful desecration of the Quran or use of an extract in a derogatory manner punishable with life imprisonment. Section 295-A prohibits injuring or defiling places of worship and “acts intended to outrage religious feelings.” It is punishable by life imprisonment, which in Pakistan is 25 years.

 

Mumtaz Qadri, the security guard who murdered Taseer for his defense of Noreen and efforts to revise the blasphemy laws, was sentenced to death this month. After protests by Muslims in the street as well as by high-level Islamists, however, the judge who sentenced Qadri, Pervez Ali Shah, was removed from his post by the Lahore High Court.

 

The Rawalpindi Bar Association had threatened a nationwide strike if Shah was not suspended or transferred within five days.

 

The Islamabad High Court has agreed to consider Qadri’s appeal of his verdict, thus suspending his death sentence until a ruling is made.

 

www.compassdirect.org

18 October 2011 - Protection inside the prison

Pakistan's Federal Ministry for inter-religious harmony - appointed as a delegate for religious minorities - has "intensified all the controls of the case and ordered an internal investigation" to protect the life and conditions of Asia Bibi in jail in Sheikupura (in Punjab) this is what the Catholic AkramGill, Minister for interreligious harmony says in an interview with Fides, following press reports that tell of ill-treatment towards Asia Bibi, a Christian woman unjustly sentenced to death for blasphemy.

According to Asia Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, over the past 15 days, a female prison guard named Khateeja has mistreated Bibi. The guard demanded to be present when Bibi used her personal toilet, which is located in the confinement cell. When Asia complained, the guard began to threaten and mistreat her. Asia made a complaint to the prison authorities who have suspended the guard for three months.

Akram Gill of the ministry for inter-religious harmony remarked, "As members of the executive, to help Asia Bibi, we will contact the prison authorities to ensure that the woman is assured maximum protection and humane conditions. As for the rest, her case is now in the hands of the judiciary system: we are waiting for the appeal trial and we cannot interfere with the judiciary".

Asia Bibi's lawyer, S. K Chaudhry will go to visit her in prison on October 15.   Harron Barkat Masih, Director of the "MasihiFoundation" said "The Christians in Pakistan and around the world, follow Asia's situation with attention and affection and continue to pray for her. We follow her story with anxiety and hope, because she is an innocent woman, unjustly locked up in prison. We ask the government to assure maximum protection, health and wellness, in her life within the walls of the prison which we hope will end soon. We have faith in the supreme justice that can restore her coveted freedom". 

12 August 2011 - Long wait on death row for Aasia Bibi as appeal stalls

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who is on death row in Pakistan falsely accused of blasphemy, may be left languishing in jail for years awaiting an appeal of her case.

She has already been behind bars for over two years since she was accused of making derogatory remarks about Muhammad in June 2009. Aasia was sentenced to death last November in a highly controversial case that threw an international spotlight on Pakistan’s "blasphemy laws", which are frequently used against Christians and other non-Muslims.

 

An appeal was lodged before the Lahore High Court, and Aasia was expected to be executed in November if it failed. But now lawyers associated with the case have indicated that the hearing is unlikely to be held any time soon for a host of reasons.

 

There is a five-year backlog of cases; the Lahore High Court is only now hearing review petitions filed in 2006-2007. Although the chief justice has the authority to bring forward a priority hearing, a lawyer in Lahore, who filed Aasia’s review petition, said this did not appear to be happening in her case.

 

This has arguably been the most controversial case in the country’s recent legal history, and there is likely to be considerable pressure on the court when the appeal is heard. Aasia’s plight prompted calls for amendments to the blasphemy laws, and the Pakistan Government initially made noises about a review. But it was forced to retreat by an aggressive Islamist backlash. There were widespread public protests, and two high-profile politicians, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Government Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who defended Aasia and called for reform, were shot dead by militants.

 

The court may therefore want to hold off hearing the case until the furore over it has died down.

Then there is the question of who would be willing to defend Aasia in court given that her other advocates have been murdered. The lawyer who filed the review petition is unsure whether or not he would be able to pursue the case. He said that the assassinations of Governor Taseer and Mr Bhatti frightened all those who initially supported Aasia; they fear that even speaking in her favour would put their own lives at risk.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, "defiling the name of Muhammad" carries a mandatory death sentence, though no-one has yet been executed for the offence; most of those convicted of blasphemy have their sentences overturned or reduced on appeal, when it eventually comes to court. But, since 1990, at least ten Pakistanis accused of blasphemy have been killed by zealous Muslims while their cases were being considered. 

Global Petition for Asia Bibi (ICC)(VOM)(CallforMercy)

27 July 2011 - A global petition drive to stop the execution of a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges was launched this week by a Christian persecution watchdog group.

Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) joined an existing petition drive that already collected more than 150,000 signatures from Christians in Pakistan to plead for the life and release of Asia Bibi, 45, a wife and mother of five.If a current appeal of her case is rejected, Bibi would be the first woman to be executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Her death sentence was handed down nine months ago. She has been in prison for two years since the initial blasphamy charge.

Bibi was arrested by police on June 19, 2009, and charged with blasphemy after she engaged in a discussion about her Christian faith with co-workers. She is currently confined to a prison cell near Faisalabad, according to VOM. Bibi had worked with local women on a farm that is run by Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees, according to VOM. The Muslim women told Bibi about Islam, and, according to VOM sources, Bibi responded by telling the Muslim women about Jesus.

 

“Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins...Our Christ is alive,” she said. Then, according to VOM: “Upon hearing this response, the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey.”
Local Christians told police about the incident and Asia was put into protective custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. Police were urged not to file blasphemy charges, but later, police said they had to do so because of pressure from local Muslim leaders. Bibi has had health problems in recent months. Her husband visits her regularly and her daily routine includes prayers and reading the Bible, according to news reports.


VOM has named the petition drive “A Call For Mercy - Help Free Asia Bibi Now” and signatures are collected through its website: http://www.callformercy.com/. The group’s goal is to collect 1 million signatures to be delivered to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

11 July 2011 - Asia Bibi’s case still on hold, but family remains hopeful

By Dan Wooding:  Founder of ASSIST Ministries

SHEIKHPURA, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The case of Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Pakistani Christian mother-of-five who is under the threat of the death penalty for alleged blasphemy, is still on hold, but her family remains hopeful.

According a story released by Spero News (http://www.speroforum.com/), Bibi has waited for months for an appeal trial but Pakistani judges "do not appear in a hurry to add her case to their agenda."

Bibi has denied the blasphemy charge that stemmed from an accusation after a dispute in June 2009 involving Muslim women who refused to drink from the same water bowl as Bibi. When she challenged them on this, they then charged her with committing blasphemy, for which she was found guilty in case that has caused uproar around the world.

The Christian woman's attorney, S.K. Chaudhry, filed again for an appeal after four judges were suddenly replaced on Tuesday.

"Our hope is for the High Court to appoint a judge," the lawyer said, who had filed an appeal in January against her death sentence for blasphemy, alleging that the original evidence presented in court was false.

"Meanwhile, Bibi's health is deteriorating after five months in isolation in Sheikhpura prison. Security around her has been beefed up after a Christian man, Qamar David, was [allegedly] poisoned to death in Karachi Ventral Prison," said the story

Ashiq Masih, Asia Bibi's husband, visits her every week with their two daughters. He is desperate. "Bibi is frail and can barely speaks," he said. "She asks me about the High Court hearing every time, and every time in disappointment I tell her that we are waiting the court to take up the case. She has not lost hope and she has the faith that God will take her out of the jail," he explained.

"My Mother is innocent. She is weak and can barely speak. I can't control my tears when I see her," the youngest daughter said. "We have been forced to face hardships because my mother stood firm for her faith. We are praying for her, we are hopeful that someday she will be with us and we will once again live a normal life".

Bibi's eldest daughter is also in tears. "Every time I hear news about persecution or blasphemy, I get scared that, God forbid, something will happen to my mother. We spend every single day in fear. Although the delay is making me lose hope, I pray every time and feel that God will bring her back one day. The moment she comes, we will forget all the hardships we have faced."

For Saleem Murtaza, a legal expert who has been following up Asia Bibi's case, "The High Court is delaying the hearing due to the pressure from extremists and clerics. There is a great possibility that if the High Court takes up the case, it will maintain the death sentence.

"The pressure from extremist groups and the bounty over Asia's head will increase the threat for the judiciary as well. The courts will be closed for 15 days in the month of August and then another week for Eid*.

"Nothing less than a miracle at this time can turn things around."

* Eid, is a three-day Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

Source: Asia News

6 June 2011 - Asia Bibi is in good health but her family requires support

By Dan Wooding:  Founder of ASSIST Ministries

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- A British Christian Pakistani group has revealed that Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Pakistani Christian mother who has been sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy under the country's controversial blasphemy laws, is in good health, but her family needs more support.

 The British Pakistani Christian Association, headed by Wilson and Juliet Chowdhry (http://britishpakistanichristian.blogspot.com/) says in a message to its supporters, "Many of our readers have requested an update on Asia Bibi, the brave woman of strong faith who has become an emblem for the freedom, equality and justice movement of Pakistan.

 "Asia is a mother of five children one is disabled who has been incarcerated for two years on concocted blasphemy charges. Asia has not seen her children during this time due to the potential threat to their safety."

The message continued by saying that it is working with partners in Pakistan, in particular a group called "Minority Coverage Foundation" (MCF) in Lahore, and added, "We have been able to obtain as full a report as possible at this stage."   It said that MCF's President Emanuel Gulzar responded to a number of questions we put before him.  Gulzar began by saying, "Asia is in good health and she believes God will save her, but she has stated that she will have no remorse if her life is taken in God's name."

 Mr. Gulzar confirmed that an appeal has been lodged on her behalf but he could not provide any details regarding any date for a hearing.   "The BPCA is aware that such appeals can be left pending for many years, due to a massive back log. We call on Christians across the globe to pray for expediency in the process of allocating a hearing date," the message continued.

 In a frank statement, Mr. Gulzar stated that in the early period many local people and organisations offered help and support to the family of Asia. He believes that the assistance has reduced significantly and has insinuated that "fear of reprisals has been the trigger."   Mr. Gulzar had kept the family in his own home for 10 days and is aware that they have been moving around from place to place for both security reasons, and due to a lack of a funded secure home.   "It would seem that there is a need for support for this family we are reopening our fund to help this family. We shall use MCF as a conduit for support for the family and would like to contribute towards the daily upkeep of the family," said the story.

 "MCF is a government registered (Pakistan) non-profit organisations and we will be seeking a clear audit trail for any funds provided to them. I will as a consequence of any funds obtained, be contacting the husband of Asia Bibi (Ashiq Masih) through MCF with intent to confirm that funds are being used appropriately and to keep up to date with the family's wellbeing.   "We have spoken with the husband before and are in contact with a number of groups who can validate the authenticity of calls with Ashiq Masih."

 If you would like to contribute please use the details contained within their website appeals page: (http://www.britishpakistanichristians.co.uk/appeals.php )

 Note from Dan Wooding: Ms. Bibi is in the women's wing of Sheikhupura Prison (near Lahore, Punjab) and is under constant threat from Muslim extremists. Still, her faith is strong and she has not lost hope of being freed soon. She is in fact praying and regularly fasting despite her weak physical and vulnerable condition.

Are we forgetting Asia Bibi? (ANS)

 

The wave of terrorism that has hit Pakistan following the killing of Osama Bin Laden's has left many around the world wondering what will come next.

It has not only cast a bad spell over US-Pakistani relations, but has also managed to sideline what was once considered to be 2010's defining issues and 2011's tragic and bitter realities: The status of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.Caught up in the world of espionage, the media and the authorities seem to have forgotten that a 45-year-old Pakistani woman is still being held in custody under a controversial blasphemy laws.

Apparently we have also forgotten about the savage murders of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, and the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the first Christian to serve in the Pakistani cabinet.Collective silence over these slayings have shown the government's incompetence to tackle these issues and it also exhibits their intolerance and inability to understand fully and recognized the importance of freedom of speech, moral values and the deprivation of basic human rights, which has led the common people to compromise even with the moderate opinions.The Governor's self-confesssed murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, his so-called bodyguard, shot him 26 times with a submachine gun at Kohsar Market, near his home in Islamabad.He was formally indicted on February 15, 2011, but nothing has been done to curb the sentiments that caused him to act out in the first place.

The Pakistan government is silent, failing to acknowledge that anyone suggesting amendments to the blasphemy laws has been threatened into submission. Self-professed "activists," prominent media persons and the exalted judiciary, too, seem to be focusing on "less controversial" issues.Salman Taseer's daughter is now being threatened and told by extremists not to speak out against the blasphemy laws.Shahbaz Bhatti, another high-profile voice who paid the ultimate price for opposing the blasphemy laws, was silenced in Islamabad on March 2, 2011, when he was gunned down by unknown gunmen. He had previously been threatened by Muslim militants for urging reform of the harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam, and for also standing up for Asia Bibi. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination of the long-time minority's activist.

Bhatti, 42, was leaving his home in the morning when an unknown gunman bombarded his vehicle with bullets in broad daylight. He was dead when he arrived at Shifa Hospital in Islamabad. Bhatti is usually accompanied by security guards, but he had told them on that day not to travel with him.The probe still continues into Bhatti's murder without any solid breakthrough. The brazen assassination of this courageous man has not only shocked the Pakistani nation, but also the whole world. In one of his last interactions with the media, he seemed ready and reconciled to his fate.

Both leaders had been very vocal in their opposition to the the blasphemy laws and they had been actively campaining for the release of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death.Politician Sherry Rehman had spoken up against the blasphemy laws and she was threatened. Who would be the next on the list?

Dr. Paul Bhatti, the brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, has now been appointed as the adviser to the Prime Minister for Minority Affairs, and enjoys the status of a federal minister.The recent coalition between the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (PMLQ) has resulted in giving the portfolio for the Minister for Minority affairs to a member of PML Q and so Akram Masih Gill was appointed as the State Minister, a move that has created an uncertainty on the status of the adviser to the PM.In an address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, Pope Benedict XVI urged religious tolerance, and in particular the repeal of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.In another move, some 736 Parliamentarians from the European Union have signed a petition demanding that Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, use his constitutional powers and amend the blasphemy laws which many believe has been misused to settle personal vendettas.

Catherine Margaret Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union (EU) has also endorsed the petition.Mr. Haroon Barkat Masih, chairman of the Masihi Foundation, a human rights organization that is leading the way in the Asia Bibi case said, "Asia Bibi is awaiting in her cell. She is weak and vulnerable but is regularly fasting and praying for the Christians and the current situation in Pakistan. Despite the current situation, she is hopeful, she is firm and unshakable in her faith.

There are great security concerns for Ms. Bibi due to post Bin Laden circumstances and the bounty announced by Imam Yusef Qureshi of Peshawar who has promised 500,000 rupees (around $5,837.03 USD) to anyone who kills Asia Bibi. Noting that this is contrary to the laws of Pakistan, the number of extra judicial killings in Punjab are the highest compared to any other province in Pakistan.Asia Bibi had been physically sick for a while, as she remains in solitary confinement and gets raw material to cook and eat. Ashiq Masih visits her regularly and said that Bibi starts her day by reading from the Bible and praying."Her family anxiously awaits for her to come back home," said Mr. Masih."Mr. Masih further stated, "The extremists are killing all the sane, rational elements in our society. Justice, charity, love for all and the acceptance for others, has totally vanished. People have developed a habit of seeing only a single dimension.

"We need to consider everyone's opinions and views to promote a tolerant society which guarantees equal rights for all, regardless of their gender, color, creed, religion, race and age. We would encourage people to fight injustice and create harmony among diverse communities and also develop a sense of responsibility as well as working towards the eradication of poverty, a basic education for all, and freedom of practicing their own religion without a fear."It is time to embrace change here in Pakistani because it has become fashionable to condemn others who are not practicing the same faith or belief. I am afraid that a worst type of extremism is also developing not just here, but across the globe. If we expect tolerance from people who have different beliefs, we have to also show tolerance towards them as well. When you allow religion to mix with the affairs of the state, this kind of barbarity is the result.

Religion has no place in the matters of the state. It is a private thing for every individual. The laws and policies of the state cannot be allowed to be taken over by religion; otherwise that nation will collapse into a sectarian disaster. 

 

7 May 2011 - Asia receives a special visit for Mothers Day

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian mother of five who has been sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, will spend "Mother's Day" (Sunday, May 8, 2011) in solitude in her prison cell.

However, the Fides News Service (www.fides.org), is reporting that the Masihi Foundation, an organization that deals with legal aid to women and the protection of her family, has revealed that Asia recently received the visit of her youngest daughter, Eshum, aged 10, who brought her a bouquet of flowers, the love and affection of all the other children.

"It was a moving moment, and Asia experienced the meeting in tears," said the Fides story. "The woman, these days, feels very lonely and longs to meet her family. Another situation at heart: one of Asia`s sons, Imran Masih, is engaged and wants to get married, but would like the presence of his mother at the wedding.

Asia's family, said Fides, has informed the Masihi Foundation, has received in recent weeks, medicine to cure her chicken pox, and after the Lenten fast, she started eating again.

"Her psychological conditions oscillate between despair and the pain of an innocent life as a prisoner, and prayer that always leads her to trust in the providence of God," said Fides. "The initiative of the Special Day of prayer for her has heartened and encouraged her, knowing that many people in the world are praying for her salvation."

Meanwhile, in the context of the general situation in Pakistan, public attention is now focused on the political implications of "post-Bin Laden" and the case of Asia Bibi seems to have disappeared from the chronicles and the debates.

This, sources of Fides observes, allow lawyers more leeway, legally, without suffering too much pressure from radical groups.

Asia Bibi still imprisoned despite internet rumors (ANS)

 

Asia Bibi, the 45-year-old Christian mother of five who was sentenced to death last year for alleged blasphemy, has not been pardoned and freed by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, despite stories and rumors that are floating around the Internet.

One British website, run by the Scottish Catholic Observer, reported, “Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, has been freed. She was released today after receiving a pardon by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and has gone into hiding over fears for her safety.

“The 45-year-old mother has been in prison since June 2009. She was found guilty of blasphemy despite there being no evidence that she committed the crime and her repeated denial of the charges laid against her. Ms Bibi was sentenced to death on November 8 this year by judge Naveed Iqbal.”

This old story has since been picked up by various bloggers and so I checked with the editor who explained, “The last time we reported on Asia Bibi in the SCO online was last year (story dated on November 23 2010) when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said he wanted to spare her. I was subsequently told he was overruled.”

This is the source of the story: http://www.sconews.co.uk/news/4497/pakistani-woman-spared-blasphemy-execution. The confusion is that today’s date appears when you check it out.

So then I contacted one of our ANS reporters in Pakistan who said, “No, Asia Bibi is still in detention. CLAAS [the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement Pakistan] was called by The US Embassy as well in this regard and one of their staff told the US Embassy that she was in still in jail.

Ms. Bibi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by Muslim field workers following a dispute over their different faiths. When she was asked to bring a cup of water to one of them, the women refused to drink from it, saying that it had been touched by a Christian and was therefore “unclean.” Her conviction and sentence caused an international outcry and shone a spotlight on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Pope Benedict XVI joined world leaders in appealing for Ms. Bibi’s release.

So please continue to pray for Asia Bibi that one day soon she will be freed and be reunited with her family. Until that day, let us all stand with this courageous Christian woman. 

 

7 April 2011 - Asia gravely ill with chickenpox 

Asia Bibi is sick, in solitary confinement, and there are growing concerns for her life. The Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy on false evidence is sick with chicken pox, because of the appallingly unhygienic conditions she is being kept in. The complaint comes from Haroon Barket Masih, president of the Masih Foundation, who today issued a statement: "Asia Bibi was diagnosed with chicken pox, she has been kept in solitary confinement for more than three months. We have expressed concern about her health, because she spends24 hours a day locked in the cell. She needs medical care, hygienic and healthy conditions. She fell ill with chickenpox because of the dirty environment, and being unable to clean her room or bed sheets on which she sleeps. Despite her ill health she spends her time fasting and praying for everyone, she neglects her health and prays for everyone else. She is concerned about the current situation in Pakistan. We are trying to arrange a medical examination, and to ensure acceptable hygienic conditions. Until now she has had no medical care. "

Masih also declared: "Recently, Mothers Day was celebrated in Europe, we all celebrated Mother’s Day, people sent cards and postcards, but who remembered this sick woman praying and fasting in her cell? Did she not want to be with her children too? She is a mother. She prayed for her children. Please continue to pray for Asia Bibi who prays and fasts. "

But the situation for Christians in Pakistan seems to be worsening by the day. Perviaz Masih, a resident of Lala Musa, a small town 75 km from Lahore, was threatened for being Christian. Pervaiz Masih is the father of three children and works for Pakistan Railways in Lala Musa. It all started when the Koran was burned in Florida. Masih has defended his faith in a discussion at work. He said: "Christianity is a religion of peace, and we condemn this act." But his colleagues were not convinced, and began to threaten him. Pervaiz Masih and his family fled the house on April 4 last and are in hiding since then. Extremist elements in society are becoming violent, and the situation in Pakistan grows worse day by day. The growing extremism in Pakistan is a concern not only for minorities but also for the government.

Bishop Anthony Rufin told AsiaNews: "I am saddened by the news about Asia Bibi, on her state of health and the state in which she lives. The Catholic Church prays for her salvation, and prays that she will be treated. It 's a difficult time for the minorities in Pakistan, incidents of violence are becoming more numerous, for how long will we live in fear? How many more Pervaiz Masih will have to live in hiding? We must work together for a campaign to promote harmony and tolerance. This Lent we pray for peace in Pakistan. A Pakistan where we can all live freely. " 

Source: Asia News

30 March 2011 - Stand with Asia (by Barnabas Fund)

...the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair Isaiah 61:3

Will you stand with us as we pray for Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian and mother of five who is currently on death row in Pakistan?

In 2010 Aasia Bibi, a Christian farm worker from Punjab, was falsely accused of insulting Muhammad, which is a criminal offence in Pakistan and carries a mandatory death penalty. She was prosecuted and convicted after a trial.

Human rights lawyers question the impartiality and independence of the criminal proceedings that resulted in Aasia's conviction and the quality of the evidence upon which her guilt was established. An appeal has been lodged before the Lahore High Court, but we are uncertain regarding the progress of her appeal. If it fails, Aasia Bibi will be executed in November 2011.

Two leading Pakistani politicians (one Muslim, the other Christian) who have sought to highlight the miscarriage of justice suffered by Aasia have been shot dead. First the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was murdered in January, and more recently Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani cabinet minister responsible for the protection of minority rights in Pakistan, was killed in Islamabad on 2 March.

This violence highlights the vulnerable position Aasia Bibi is in as she remains in prison awaiting execution. It should also serve to stir within us (her brothers and sisters in Christ) a deep desire to pray for her. In Hebrews 13:3 we are commanded to "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, writing in The Times on 7 March, described the current situation in Pakistan as one "of deepening tragedy that urgently needs prayer and action". For us as Christians, action starts with prayer.

Let us stand together with Aasia and pray for:

  • her safety
  • her release from prison
  • her family, who are in hiding for fear of their lives

Please also pray for wisdom and courage for the government of Pakistan as they seek to bring to justice all those responsible for this current wave of violence.

Many people may feel moved to write to the Pakistani authorities to plead for justice and respect for human rights in Aasia's case. This is best done by contacting the Pakistani High Commission or Embassy in your country.

United Kingdom

His Excellency Wajid Shamsul Hasan
The High Commission for Pakistan
34-36 Lowndes Square
London SW1X 9JN

consular@phclondon.org

United States

His Excellency Ambassador Husain Haqqani
Pakistan Embassy to the United States
3517 International Court Northwest
Washington D.C.20008-3023

info@embassyofpakistanusa.org

Australia

His Excellency Tasawar Khan
High Commission for Pakistan
PO Box 684
Mawson ACT 2607

parepcanberra@internode.on.net               

New Zealand

His Excellency Syed Ibne Abbas
High Commission for Pakistan
182 Onslow Road
Khandallah
Wellington

 

Update 25 March 2011 - Asia to fast for Peace and Justice 

Asia Bibi, the Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy under Islamic law in Pakistan is conducting fast for peace. Said the mother of three, "During Lent I want to pray and to fast for peace and justice. I want to offer up my suffering to God to be close to Him. I want to thank all those who are praying with me, throughout the world: I feel their support. I want to say to them that I pray for them all and ask God, who is Divine Providence, to bless them. I ask the Pope and all Christians to continue to pray for me."

Her message from the Sheikpura prison was conveyed by Haroon Barkat Masih of the Masihi Foundation, which is providing legal and financial assistance to her. Ashiq Masih, Bibi's husband, and her children have confirmed that are fasting in solidarity with her.

Masih commented, "Asia is a fragile and vulnerable person. We are worried about her health and have asked prison authorities to allow a team of doctors to visit her. I would not like this prolonged fasting to affect her health and weaken her too much. She has been in an isolation cell now for two months and needs to take some air and see the sun. The authorities say that they cannot allow that due to security risks. But now it is also time to protect her health. We don't want her to collapse."

Fears have risen for Asia's health after the death of Qamar David, the Catholic man found dead in jail in Karachi in mysterious circumstances.

Update on Asia Bibi - 23 February 2011

CIP reports that Hundreds of Christians are currently holding a hunger strike in the Pakistani border region of Punjab. They do so, demanding the release of Asia Bibi.

In the mean time Asia news reports that prison authorities have not yet authorised Asia Bibi’s transfer to the Multan prison for women. The Masihi Foundation wants her trial to be behind closed doors, out of fear of Muslim extremists who have threatened to kill the 45-year-old Christian woman. Ashaiq Masih, Asia’s wife, thanked activists for taking care of the case. For him, they are a “ray of hope”.

In the mean time, Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti denied the existence of a committee to promote changes to the blasphemy law.

The minister, who was burnt in effigy along with Benedict XVI in street protests, said that President Zardari had planned to set up a study group to consult Islamic experts and eventually propose changes to the ‘black law’. However, the reaction of fundamentalists killed the initiative because it would have led to “misunderstandings about the government’s intentions”.

Bhatti denied that any changes to the law are being prepared, but added that “abuses must be prevented”. He also reiterated his belief that Asia Bibi is innocent and should be freed.

20 January 2011- Jailed Pakistani Mother Living in Constant Fear, Husband Says

Murder of Punjab governor intensifies security concerns for woman sentenced to death.  By Asher John

LAHORE, Pakistan, January 19 (Compass Direct News-Picture BBC) – A mother of five sentenced to death on “blasphemy” charges has lived in constant fear since the killing of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, her husband told Compass as he came out of Sheikhupura District Jail after meeting with her last week.

 Ashiq Masih said his wife, Asia Noreen (alternatively spelled Aaysa, and also called Asia Bibi), is “very afraid.” Her conviction triggered a violent chain of events in Pakistan, including the Jan. 4 murder of Taseer by his bodyguard after the governor voiced support for her.

 “She knows the Muslims have announced a prize on her head and would go to any lengths to kill her,” a visibly nervous Masih told Compass. “The governor’s murder in broad daylight has put her in a state of paranoia.”

 He added that threats by Islamist extremists have dampened Noreen’s hope of getting justice from the Lahore High Court, where her appeal against the conviction has been filed but yet to be taken up.

 Wearing a dark cloak to hide his identity, Masih was visibly nervous after meeting with her on Jan. 11.

 “She was asking me about the situation outside,” he said. “I tried to console her, but she knows it’s really bad. She’s also worried about the children.”

 The mother of two children and stepmother to three others, Noreen asked him to appeal for more prayers for her, he said.

 “Please tell everyone to pray for her,” he said.

 Masih said prison authorities had improved Noreen’s security considerably after Taseer’s killing.

 “She’s being kept in a separate cell with a warden deployed 24 hours for her security,” he said. “Only I am allowed to meet her, but even I am searched completely before they bring her out for the meeting. I just hope and pray she keeps safe inside the prison.”

 Still, prison officials have reportedly said she will be transferred to another prison soon because of security concerns.

 The female warden tasked with Noreen’s security the day Taseer was killed told Compass of the Christian woman’s reaction to the news.

 “I was escorting her for her routine walk on the evening Governor Taseer was gunned down,” said the warden, who requested anonymity. “We were passing by a barrack when the news broke out on TV that the governor was dead … She stood there in shock for some time, and then she started screaming and crying.”

 The warden added that she helped Noreen back to her cell, “as she could barely walk and kept weeping.”

 “She cried all evening and also refused to have supper,” the warden said. “The governor’s killing shattered her. The governor’s visit had boosted her morale – she was very happy and every time I spoke to her, I could feel the joy in her heart. She shared with me how she had lost hope, and how God had sent Taseer to help her. A particular verse that she often repeats is from John 14:1, which says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.”

 The warden said she was assigned Noreen’s security following reports that attempts would be made to kill her inside the jail. Since Taseer’s killing, she said, Noreen has grown suspicious of everyone around her.

 “She’s only taken out of her cell for an hour, but even then she is fearful of her surroundings, even though all the other inmates are locked up before she’s taken out for exercise,” she said. “One can imagine how insecure she must be feeling after Taseer was killed by one of his own guards.”

 Sheikhupura District Jail Superintendent Sheikh Khalid, who recently assumed charge, told Compass that Noreen was the most “high value” inmate of the prison and that he was not going to take any chances regarding her security.

 “She is on the hit list of several extremist organizations,” he said, “and there are reports that she might be targeted inside the jail – moreover, she has a 30 million rupee [US$350,000] prize on her head. This is enough incentive for anyone to kill her.”

 He said the prison had enhanced its security measures, and additional forces have been employed to guard the premises at night.

 “No one except her husband can meet her,” Khalid said. “I have also directed her not to eat anything given to her by any person other than the wardens deployed for her security. We are trying our best to keep her safe, but life and death are in the hands of Allah.”

 Noreen’s lawyer, S.K. Chaudhry, declined to discuss the future course of legal action because of the sensitive nature of the case. 

 Noreen has been condemned to death for insulting Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, a charge she denies. A week after her conviction, the governor of Punjab province visited her in jail. Taseer, a liberal Muslim, did not mince words as he assured Noreen of his support. He told her he believed that the charges against her were fabricated and that there had been a miscarriage of justice. He promised that he would recommend a presidential pardon for her.

 During that visit, he called Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes “a black law” and called for their repeal – a demand that ultimately resulted in his brutal killing, as one of his own police bodyguards believed that Taseer had blasphemed by criticizing the law.

 Masih, Noreen’s husband, said he was about to have lunch when he first heard the news of the killing of Taseer on TV.

 “I had taken the first bite when the news flashed that Governor Taseer had been killed,” he said. “I was stunned, couldn’t swallow the food either … no words can explain that moment.”

 He denied government reports that it was providing his family security, saying they were living in a safe-house arranged by “some friends” and surviving on money provided by Christian organizations. Taseer’s murder, he added, had shaken the little confidence the family had after the governor’s assurance of support to them.

 “They killed the governor for supporting her,” he said. “He died for us, but it seems his sacrifice has gone in vain.”

19 January 2011 - Asia Bibi to be shifted to Multan for security reasons

By Xavier Partas William - Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Asia Bibi, the Pakistani-Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, will soon be shifted to an all-women prison due to security concerns.

Sheikhpura Prison superintendent, Khalid Sheikh ,told the media, "I have received directives from the Punjab Home Department to shift Asia from Sheikhupura district jail to an all-women jail in Multan, as her life is in danger in Sheikhpura jail."

The transfer is expected to take place at night under heavy security within the next seven days.

The Punjab Home Department has directed the Inspector General of Police to provide heavy security to ensure a safe transfer.

Mr. Kashif Mazhar, a senior spokesman for Life for All, told the media, "It is good that Asia is being shifted, but the transfer should be kept confidential as the extremists are vigilantly looking for an opportunity to kill Asia Bibi, she should be flown in a helicopter as the matter is extremely serious."

The Christian community raised their concern to the authorities and the Federal Minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, claiming that Asia Bibi is not being provided sufficient security despite constant life threats from militants and rewards being announced across Pakistan to kill Asia Bibi.

Asia`s husband Ashiq Masih also appealed to the authorities to raise her security, as her life is in danger. Ministry of Interior had asked the Punjab government to increase security for Asia Bibi in Sheikhupura Jail.

An official report released on January 11, 2011, by the provincial intelligence agency said that the severity of threat to the life of Asia Bibi spiked after the assassination of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, but the provincial government is yet to take effective security measures.

"Asia Bibi is incarcerated in the women’s barrack in Sheikhupura district jail along with 15 or 16 other detainees. Just one lady warden has been assigned to her inside the jail and five police constables deputed to secure the jail’s perimeter, along with two motorcycle squads assigned to patrol the jail periphery," said the report.

The report also said that the guards assigned to her “are not vigilant and most of the times they are absent, especially the motorcycle riders”.

As she waits for her case to be appealed to the Lahore High Court, Asia Bibi spends her time talking to her female prison guards, catching up with the news from a television placed in a nearby room and reading an Urdu Bible given to her by supporters.

She is not a fluent reader, said Pastor Obed Robert, a local pastor for Life for All Ministries who regularly visits her and supports her family, but during her months of incarceration she had taken particular comfort from the words of John Chapter 14, Verse 1, which says: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me."

14 January 2011-Asia Bibi Still Without 'Adequate Security,'

By Xavier Partas William - Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SHEIKHUPURA, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- No extra security measures have been taken to protect the life of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges and whose life is constantly being threatened by militants and extremist religious elements, a report compiled by a provincial intelligence agency said on Wednesday (January 12, 2011).  The report, monitored by ANS, was sent to the agency's provincial headquarters through its regional office.

 The severity of threat to the life of Asia Bibi spiked after the assassination of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, but the provincial government is yet to take effective security measures, ANS has discovered.  Asia Bibi is incarcerated in the women's barrack in Sheikhupura district jail along with 15 or 16 other detainees.  Just one female warden has been assigned to her inside the jail and five police constables deputed to secure the jail's perimeter, along with two motorcycle squads assigned to patrol the jail periphery.

 The report said that the guards assigned to her "are not vigilant and most of the times they are absent, especially the motorcycle riders". Referring to the many loopholes in Asia Bibi's security, the intelligence agency pointed out that her husband, Ashiq Masih, is allowed to visit her like "a normal visitor in an ordinary/casual shed, and there are no special security precautions" on ground.

 Stressing the need for extra security, the report recommended that Asia Bibi should be sent to the women's jail in Multan, a city in the Punjab Province of Pakistan and capital of Multan District. It said that there were "better security arrangements which preempts the chance of an attack or any untoward incident".

 Interestingly, the Ministry of Interior had asked the Punjab government to increase security for Asia Bibi in Sheikhupura Jail.  Following the recent debate in Pakistan about the blasphemy law and the subsequent assassination of late Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer for speaking out against the law, Minorities Minister, Shabhaz Bhatti, a Christian, who first spoke out against the blasphemy law, believes he is "the highest target right now".

 Bhatti told the Pakistan media, "During this Bibi case, I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer. these messages are coming to me even publicly."  Bhatti and his allies say the law against defamation of the Prophet Mohammed is often used to settle petty disputes, and human rights activists say the act encourages extremism in a nation already besieged by Taliban attacks.  Bhatti said fatwas, or religious decrees had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity. "The government should register cases against all those using hate speeches," said Bhatti, who insists he will work as usual despite the threats.  "I'm not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they're terrorising the country.  "I cannot even trust security.. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can't save you."

 Former information minister, Sherry Rehman, initiated the current controversy when she introduced a bill in November calling for an end to the death penalty for blasphemy. "I'm sure everyone at the top is worried about this and concerned about the level of security we all have," said Rehman, speaking to the media from her heavily-guarded home in Karachi, where 50,000 people rallied on Sunday hailing Qadri as a "hero." 

 She said she uses her own private security company instead of public protection, and said they had advised her to stay at home and not to travel to the capital Islamabad.  "I'm not being foolish but I'm going to be rational," she said. "I don't plan to turn away. I have put the bill in, it's not an extreme position like a repeal bill. They (the extremists) can't decide what we think or speak."

 Country wide rallies have been announced by the by the Islamic extremist groups after the Friday prayers on January, 14, 2011. The Christian Community has been instructed to stay vigilant.

13 January 2011 - Asia Bibi facing threat of suicide attack

By Dan Wooding:  ASSIST Ministries

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who triggered a blasphemy furor in Pakistan and in whose defense Punjab Governor Salman Taseer lost his life, is facing a threat of a suicide attack inside a jail, where she is currently lodged.

According to Z News (www.zeenews.com), the "Moaviya group," a militant organization plans to mount a suicide attack on Sheikhupura district jail, where 45-year-old Asia is being held, The Express Tribune quoted its sources as saying. An intelligence report issued last week has corroborated threat to her life.

"Punjab police and jail authorities subsequently beefed up security due to the intelligence report and the assassination of Taseer," said the story.

"Asia Bibi was sentenced to death last year after being convicted under the blasphemy law for insulting Prophet Mohammed. She denied the charge and said she was framed by a group of Muslim women with whom she had a row.

"Taseer, who backed a call for Asia Bibi to be pardoned, was gunned down in Islamabad on Tuesday by a police guard who said he was angered by the Governor's criticism of the blasphemy law."

The Z News story went on to say that according to official figures, 131 people are being held in jails across Punjab on blasphemy charges. Eleven of them have been sentenced to death, including Asia Bibi, who was the first woman to be given the penalty.

"Though no one has been executed after being convicted under the controversial law, 35 people, including Taseer, who were accused of committing blasphemy or defending those charged with blasphemy have been killed between 1990 and 2011," the story added.

"They were either victims of extra-judicial killings or found dead in prison in suspicious circumstances."

3 January 2011

Asia Bibi Still In Prison

Asia Bibi Still in Prison, Government U-turn on Law against Blasphemy

 

By Jibran Khan

 

(AsiaNews) - Asia Bibi is still waiting in jail for the High Court in Lahore to decide the date for her appeal against the death sentence for blasphemy passed in November 2010. In the midst of an imminent governmental crisis Islamic religious parties are stepping up pressure against the government to prevent any change to the controversial blasphemy law. In an attempt to ease the pressure, the government announced in no uncertain terms that it does not plan to eliminate or amend the blasphemy law. In a statement before the National Assembly on 1 January, the Minister for Religious Affairs Khursheed Shah said the government is not responsible for the proposal put to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Pakistan People Party (PPP) to change the law. The Parliamentarian Rheman Sherry submitted the proposed amendment to Parliament. "The government has no plans to remove the blasphemy laws ... to ensure respect of the Holy Prophet is part of our faith," said Kursheed Shah.

 

 

The minister assured the minorities that the government will take the necessary steps to ensure that the law is not misused against them. Protests by Islamic parties began when President Asif Ali Zardari announced his intention to pardon Asia Bibi, a Christian sentenced to death on false charges. The government had previously indicated their willingness to amend the law, and had formed a committee for this purpose, headed by Minister for Minorities Shabahz Bhatti.

23 December 2010 

 

Asia Bibi 'can be killed anytime,' says Pakistani priest
The fight against the blasphemy law continues in Pakistan:  By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries

 

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Spero News (www.speroforum.com) is reporting that the "fight over blasphemy continues unabated in Pakistan" as appeals and initiatives on behalf of Asia Bibi, a jailed Christian woman sentenced to death, continue around the world.

 

This week, the High Court in Lahore is expected to set the date for her appeal. However, the most extremist Islamic parties and organizations have launched a campaign in favor of Pakistan's blasphemy legislation, announcing street actions and strikes over the coming weeks.

 

"Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islma Fazl party, launched the campaign at a press conference," said the Spero News story based on one released by Asia News. "He said that the campaign would unfold in three stages: demonstrations on December 24 after Friday prayers, a general strike on December 31, and a great rally on January 9, 2011 in Karachi."

 

Maulana Fazl said that religious parties are "united on the issue." He insisted that he would oppose any attempt by the government to change the blasphemy law.   Last week, President Asif Ali Zardari stated that he wanted to modify the controversial law which has been condemned around the world.

 

At a seminar titled "Protection of the blasphemy law and its importance," Justice Mian Nazeer Akhtar said that Punjab Governor, Salmaan Taseer, was also a blasphemer for protecting those who indulged in blasphemy.

"Section 295C was included in the Criminal Procedure of Pakistan in 1986, and a handful of people cannot be allowed to damage it," he explained.  At the same time, he accused the Federal government of allowing "dubious debates" on the blasphemy topic on various Pakistani television channels.

 

During Asia Bibi's trial, her attorney called the charges a "fanciful drama" by a Muslim majority "arrayed against a Christian minority."  The case began after Asia Bibi offered her fellow farm workers water which they refused because, as a Christian, she had made it "impure."  Both sides firmly defended their faiths, but Asia Bibi was charged with blasphemy.

 

The Rev Samson Dilawar, a parish priest who was wounded by gunmen in 1997 and saw his Catholic church burned to the ground in 2005, has claimed that he has been threatened by anonymous callers for assisting Asia Bibi.  He said that Bibi is "not safe in prison."  Dilawar said that the murder last year of a young Christian man accused of blasphemy in nearby Sialkot was a cautionary tale.

 

"That boy was killed in the jail. She can also be murdered in the jail as well. She can be killed anytime. So anything can happen," the Rev Dilawar said.

 

Meanwhile, millions of Christians around the world are praying for Asia Bibi in a case that, once again, appears to illustrate the unfairness of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

15 December 2010

By Dan Wooding:  Founder of ASSIST Ministries

PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The tension surrounding the plight of jailed Christian Asia Bibi is increasing as members of the Pakistani Jamiat Ulema-e Party and the Taliban have called for her death.

According to Stephanie Samuel writing in the Christian Post (www.christianpost.com) A cleric has already offered 500,000 rupees - roughly $5,800USD - to anyone who kills the Pakistani mother and step-mother of five. And in yet another sign that the case has become a rallying point for extremists, the Taliban also has threatened retribution should she be spared.

"As tensions mount, Pope Benedict XVI and Ronald S. Lauder of the World Jewish Congress have both expressed concern and distress over Bibi, and the persecution of Christians in other countries," wrote Samuel.

"In a December 10, 2010, meeting at the Vatican, Lauder, president of the leading global Jewish advocacy group, noted with concern that both Christians and Jews in the Middle East are facing the threat of radical Islam. He also expressed his sympathies over the murder of Christian leaders in Iraq and Turkey."

She went on to say that the pope has called on Pakistani officials for Bibi's release.

"As for Bibi, the first woman be sentenced to death for blasphemy, she continues to sit in prison," concluded Samuel. "Her husband, Ashiq Masih, recently told National Public Radio that he fears she may be killed in jail. He and their children also fear for their lives and have gone into hiding."

8 December 2010

 By Jawad Mazhar:  Special Correspondent for ANS, reporting from Pakistan

 

PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti condemned Saturday the recent announcement of a reward for killing the jailed Christian woman on death row for blasphemy.

 

According to a story by Christian Post reporter Ethan Cole, Bhatti said the call is unjust and irresponsible.

 

He said the reward should be discouraged in the strongest possible manner because no one has the right to issue a decree to kill someone else, according to Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper. He also added that Pakistan is a civilized country and violation of the rule of law is not allowed.

 

"Every legal and constitutional means will be adopted in the Asia Bibi case," assured Bhatti, who was in charge of investigating the case and reported that Bibi was innocent to President Asif Ali Zadari.

 

The Christian Post said a hard-line imam known for making similar reward-for-murder calls in the past offered about $6,000 to anyone who kills Asia Bibi during his sermon at the largest mosque in Peshawar on Friday.

 

Imam Maulana Yousuf Qureshi also threatened the government to not amend or repeal the blasphemy laws "which provide protection to the sanctity of Holy Prophet Muhammad," according to Asia News.

 

The Christian Post reported that Qureshi, who had also called for the murder of the Danish cartoonists who drew caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, said that if the appeals court judge freed Bibi then Muslim extremists will kill her.

 

"There are hundreds of thousands of people including mujahedin (warriors) and Taliban who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the honor of the Prophet Muhammad. Anyone of them could finish her," Qureshi said Friday, according to All

Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a human rights group with which Bhatti formerly served as chairman.

 

The Christian Post said Bibi, a mother of five, has been imprisoned for 18 months, and was sentenced in November to death by hanging for allegedly speaking badly of Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

 

She is Christian and is the first woman to receive a death sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan.

 

Her case has sparked international outcry against Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which are often used against religious minorities after a small non-religious-related dispute. According to Bibi, the Christian Post said, her imprisonment and death sentence stems from an argument she had with fellow field workers in June 2009.

 

She was picking fruit in the field with fellow Muslim workers and went to get water for the group. Upon returning, the Christian Post said, the Muslim women in the field refused to drink the water because the container was touched by a Christian.

 

The Christian Post said Bibi was offended and argued with the women, but then afterwards thought nothing of the incident. However, a few days later dozens of Muslims dragged her away. She was accused of blasphemy against the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, which she denies.

 

The Christian Post said Bhatti has submitted a report to President Zadari, stating that his findings show Bibi to be innocent. But the country's high court banned the Pakistani government from pardoning her. It said doing so while a case is pending is illegal.

 

The high court has yet to set a date for Bibi's appeals hearing.

 

25 November 2010

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari will not immediately pardon a Christian woman sentenced to die for insulting Islam but may do so later if an appeals court delays her case too long, an official said Thursday, November 25, 2010.

 

Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for the release of Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five who has said she was wrongly accused by a group of Muslim women with a grudge against her.

 

According to a story posted at www.epakistannews.com, "The case has prompted outrage from international rights groups and inflamed religious passions at home. In recent days, demonstrations have been staged both by Pakistan's Christian minority calling for her release and also by Muslims warning against any pardon for her and defending the country's blasphemy law, which critics say is misused to settle personal scores and by extremists to persecute minorities."

 

Bibi, 45, is the first woman condemned to die under the blasphemy law. She has been jailed for 18 months and was sentenced November 8, 2010 to hang.
 

Her lawyer has filed an appeal with the Lahore High Court, and President Asif Ali Zardari has decided to let the appeal process play out instead of immediately pardoning her, said Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who met with Zardari on Thursday, November 25, 2010.

 

"Pardoning Bibi would carry political risk for Zardari, whose coalition government relies on an Islamic political party in Parliament," the website story said.

Bhatti was quoted as saying, "However, Zardari agreed to pardon Bibi later if the appeal case is unduly delayed." Zardari's spokesman could not be reached Thursday, stated the website.

Bhatti, who has said he believes Bibi is innocent, said Zardari did not specify any deadline but said he believes the president "will not wait months or weeks."