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  • » 10/24/2011, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Asia Bibi prays for freedom but judges are hostage of fundamentalists

    Jibran Khan

    Ashiq Masih saw his wife in prison. She is frail but “high in spirit”. Prison guard is suspended for having “hot words” with Asia Bibi as prison security is tightened. The family continues to hope for her release, but judges are threatened by Muslim extremists. Pakistan mourns the death of Begum Nusrat Bhutto.
    Lahore (AsiaNews) – Asia Bibi continues to pray in death row. She still hopest she might be released soon and return to her family, her husband Ashiq Masih told AsiaNews. The 45-year-old mother of five was sentenced to death for blasphemy and is in jail waiting for her appeal to be heard. She “is weak and frail, but is high in spirit,” he added. She has a new guard because the one in place was “suspended” after she “had a few hot words with” his wife “over a minor issue.”

    In recent weeks, the Pakistani press had reported that some of the guards had “tortured” her, an allegation her husband was quick to put to rest. In fact, Asia has been in isolation for the past few months in Sheikhupura prison (Punjab). In order to prevent any possible attack against her, prison officials have tightened security measures around the Christian woman. Islamic fundamentalists have in fact called for death and offered a reward for her murder.

    As Ashiq Masih noted, she “is weak and frail” but “high in spirit” and has “been provided extra security” because “the situation is tense”. In light of this, “She is praying for all the people who are praying for her,” her husband said. Unfortunately, “the judicial system is becoming a hostage in the hands of the extremists."

    For instance, Judge Pervez Ali Shah, of the Anti-Terror Tribunal in Rawalpindi, was removed from his post after he announced the death sentence against Mumtaz Qadri, the security guard who murdered Punjab Governor Salman Taseer because he had defended Asia Bibi.

    “We are praying and fasting for our mother so that she can be with us,” said Alishba Bibi, one of Asia’s children. “Each time I meet her, I can’t hold my tears. My mother tries to hold my hand through the gaps in 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 my mother back so that we can be with her again”.

    Asia’s youngest daughter laments the situation. “I have not met my mother. I am scared.” She remembers seeing her “only in pictures” and of being unable to “control my tears”.

    “There are times that I even lose all hope to see her ever again. I want to keep the memories of her, smiling and playing with us,” she added.

    The family continues to live in hiding in a safe place because they too have been threatened by Islamic fundamentalists.

    Meanwhile, another woman who has marked the recent history of Pakistan has passed away. Begum Nusrat Bhutto, 82, wife of former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, mother of Benazir and mother-in-law of the current president, Asif Ali Zardari, died yesterday afternoon in Dubai.

    The authorities have announced a public holiday to mark her death. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has proclaimed ten days of official mourning.

    Of her four children, only the youngest daughter is still alive because she has never been interested in politics.

    "The Bhutto narrative is beyond history. It belongs to the realm of legends,” the Prime Minister`s Secretariat said in an official statement. “The nation is once more united in their collective grief for a family whose sacrifices remain unparalleled in our lives.”
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    See also

    17/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Christian "blasphemer" dies of heart failure but relatives speak of poisoning
    For hospital staff, the jailed man died from heart failure, but his family note that he was threated after the assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. Christian activists believe he is the latest victim of the blasphemy law. Now many fear for the life of Asia Bibi, next on the “list”.

    07/01/2013 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: Christians remember Salman Taseer and his courageous stance against blasphemy
    Lahore priest slams murderer's hero status. In fighting against the 'black law', Punjab governor gave his life for Asia Bibi and minorities. The fate of his son, seized by an extremist group in August 2011, is still uncertain.

    24/05/2011 PAKISTAN
    After Bin Laden’s death, Asia Bibi’s prison security tightened
    The president of the Masihi Foundation confirms that security has been tightened around the Catholic mother sentenced to death for blasphemy. Her faith remains strong. She prays and fasts for Pakistan and Pakistani Christians. The “worst type of extremism” is developing in the country.

    20/04/2011 PAKISTAN
    Candles for Asia Bibi for faith shall set her free, says Islamabad bishop
    Prayers and special Masses are being said in Pakistan and around the world for the 45-year-old Christian woman, sentenced to death on blasphemy charges. Meanwhile, Arif Masih and his family are safe; he had been arrested on blasphemy charges and later released. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said he was in good conditions and that he did not experience any violence in prison. Another attack is carried out against a Christian in Mardan.

    08/03/2011 PAKISTAN – INDIA
    Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has become the symbol of violence against women in Pakistan
    The Pakistani Church and Indian Christians launch an appeal on behalf of the 45-year-old woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. On International Women’s Day, she has become the iconic figure of “the status of women in the country”. A Catholic activist urges the international community and Pakistan’s civil society to “bring about positive changes”.



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