12/16/2010, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Asia Bibi “can be killed anytime,” Pakistani priest says

by Jibran Khan
The fight against the blasphemy law continues in Pakistan. Religious parties and Islamic extremists plan a campaign in favour of the legislation, which the government wants to modify. In a few days, the High Court in Lahore should set a date for the appeal against the death penalty.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – 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. Next week, the High Court in Lahore is expected to set the date for her appeal. However, the most extremist Islamic parties and organisations have launched a campaign in favour 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. He said that the campaign would unfold in three stages: demonstrations on 24 December after Friday prayers, a general strike on 31 December, and a great rally on 9 January 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. Yesterday, President Asif Ali Zardari had said that he wanted to modify the law (see Jibran Khan, “Pakistani President Zardari wants to amend blasphemy law,” in AsiaNews, 15 December 2010).

At a seminar titled ‘Protection of the blasphemy law and its importance’, Justice (r) Mian Nazeer Akhtar said Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was also a blasphemer for he was 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 television channels.

During Asia Bibi’s trial, her attorney called the charges a "fanciful drama" by a Muslim majority arrayed against a Christian minority.

When Asia Bibi offered her fellow farm workers water, 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 been threatened by anonymous callers for assisting Asia Bibi.

He said that Bibi is not safe in prison. The murder last year of a young Christian man accused of blasphemy in nearby Sialkot is 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," Rev Dilawar said.

Meanwhile, the AsiaNews campaign continues. Please write to salviamoasiabibi@asianews.com

 

pakistan asia bibi death sentence appeal blasphemy law

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