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  • » 01/03/2011, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Asia Bibi still in prison. Government u-turn on law against blasphemy

    Jibran Khan

    The Minister for Religious Affairs attempt to appease the Islamic parties and announces that the government does not want to amend the controversial law. Clashes between Muslim protesters and police near the house of the Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari. Lahore High Court still to fix the date of the appeal for the Christian woman sentenced to death.

    Lahore (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.

    A national strike to protest against the proposed amendment to the Act took place December 31, 2010 organized by radical Islamic parties. The protesters tried to reach the residence of President Zardari in Karachi, throwing stones and had to be charged by riot police with tear gas. They shouted slogans against Asia Bibi and MP Rheman Sherry, and in defense of Muhammad: "We sacrifice our lives, we will save the sanctity of the prophet." Dr. Nazir Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress, harshly criticized the slogans chanted by the radicals, and even the silence of Christians MPs during the declaration of the Minister for Religious Affairs. "It 's a shame that they did not have the courage to walk away, but listened in silence to the minister’s repudiation," he said.

    Meanwhile the AsiaNews campaign continues: salviamoasiabibi@asianews.it

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    See also

    04/12/2010 PAKISTAN
    Peshawar Imam: "A reward to kill Asia Bibi"
    In his sermon, Maulana Yousuf Qureshi of the Mohabat Khan mosque, said that if the appeals court judge innocent Asia Bibi will be the mujahideen to kill her. The leader has also warned the government on any changes to the law on blasphemy.

    22/12/2010 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi affair: Islamic parties set strike date for 24 December, same day as Christian march
    The High Court in Lahore could set date for Asia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence for blasphemy as early as tomorrow. Islamic parties set up steering committee to stop amendments to the law, which has been a source of abuses. They also announce a strike for the same day as the Christian protest march.

    12/02/2011 PAKISTAN
    Islamabad confirms Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti as Minister for minorities
    Government reshuffle took place yesterday. Bhatti has struggled in recent years to amend the blasphemy law and has recently requested a pardon for Asia Bibi.

    02/03/2011 PAKISTAN
    Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani minister who defended Asia Bibi, is assassinated
    The attack took place this morning in Islamabad. An armed commando gunned down the Catholic minister in his car. Rushed to hospital he did not survive his wounds. Murder claimed by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

    07/12/2010 PAKISTAN
    Asia Bibi:battle continues to change the blasphemy law
    High court lawyers unanimously ask the law not be modified, while Islamic and Christian scholars propose amendments or its abolition. The protest of Punjab’s Christian MPs. Fears for the life of women: 46 extra-judicial deaths for blasphemy cases from 1990 to 2010.



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