Rome (AsiaNews) - In order to achieve a positive outcome in the Asia
Bibi case, it is necessary to promote "dialogue and exchange with the Muslim community,"
said Paul Bhatti, special adviser to the prime minister on national harmony (with
the status of federal minister). Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that this means seeking "forgiveness" to allow
her to leave prison safely. In Pakistan, the message must be that "being
Christian does not mean belonging to the West." It also means "working to
prevent "abuses in the name of the blasphemy law." The Christian mother of five
was in fact sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad and is
waiting for her appeal trial.
As Christmas approaches, many Catholic organisations and groups paused
to remember the Asia
Bibi case, seen as a 'symbol' of the abuses inflicted upon the
Christian minority in the name of the blasphemy law.
Paul Bhatti, who was instrumental in getting Rimsha
Masih acquitted, said that the country has seen many other similar
cases. In his view, all the people involved deserve to be freed from false
accusations. And this must be done in such a way to avoid a frontal clash with
Muslims and Pakistani society. "The international community must help the
country to produce a small but radical change," he added.
Contacted by AsiaNews by
phone, Bhatti stressed the importance of exchange and interfaith dialogue in
Pakistani society as the bases for "full respect of human dignity and freedom."
It is necessary to focus on "shared values" and denounce the distorted ways
the blasphemy law is enforced, "abused, in some cases, to settle personal
scores or vendettas."
Starting in the mosque or church, the shared goal must be the "defence
of human beings". For this reason, the federal minister calls for support to "my
work and that of APMA," the All
Pakistan Minorities Alliance, created by his brother Shahbaz, who was
murdered on 2 March 2011, among other things for coming to Asia Bibi's defence,
and hosting her family whilst she was in prison after she was sentenced to
Since the Minority Affairs minister's assassination, Asia Bibi's family
has been protected by groups and NGOs that have not always acted "in her
interest," or managed funds transparently. In some cases, her tragedy has been
used for material gain, with APMA and the ministry pushed to the sidelines.
"I am ready to help them," Bhatti noted, "but they must make an official
request; otherwise I have no grounds to intervene."
Another thing that must be done is shed light on the flow of money from
the international community that is not always used for the purpose indicated. This
is the true in Asia Bibi's case.
For Bhatti, a Catholic who lived in Italy for many years, "in Pakistan Christians
and Muslims have some room and leeway to engage in exchange and dialogue".
"We must step into this reality," he explained. "I too had a negative
vision in the past." Now whatever room and margins that might exist "must be
used and experienced. In the past, I was viewed as a Western spy; now many
things have changed."
After talking to radical ulema and imams, Bhatti has established a relationship
that now includes discussions and invitations to mosques.
"Their approach has totally changed. This is cause for hope because only
through dialogue and exchange is it possible to solve problems together."