01/07/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Extremist group announces suicide attack to kill Asia Bibi

by Jibran Khan
Pakistani intelligence says Moaviya group is planning a suicide attack against Sheikhupura Prison, where the woman has been held since 2009. In Lahore, the first hearing for the murder of Punjab Governor of Salman Taseer opens amid hugging and showering of flowers for his assassin.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – An extremist Islamist group calling itself ‘Moaviya’ might be planning a suicide attack against Sheikhupura Prison in order to kill Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, this according to a report by Pakistani intelligence. Ms Bibi has been held in the prison since 2009. Punjab police and prison authorities have tightened security, especially in the wake of the assassination of the provincial governor, Salman Taseer, last Tuesday.

A few days ago, Mgr Lawrence John Saldanha, president of the catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, said, “it is clear that anyone that opposes the blasphemy law is at risk.”

Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, told AsiaNews that religious fundamentalism and intolerance are spreading in the country.

Increasingly, Muslim religious leaders are actually offering rewards to anyone willing to carry out attacks and violence against those who criticises the blasphemy law.

Between 1990 and 2011, as many as 35 people accused of blasphemy or opposed to the law were murdered in extrajudicial killings or found dead in dubious circumstances.

Such deaths tend to cause rejoicing among some Muslims, as evinced by the demonstrations in favour of Taseer’s murderer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri.

When he was arraigned in court last Tuesday, dozens of his fans hugged and kissed him, showering him with rose petals.

More than 2,000 people have also joined a Facebook group that backs the murder. Only 70 people have expressed an opinion against him.

According to US-based LifeSiteNews, more than 500 Muslim scholars have praised Qadri’s deed.

“It is shocking that the murderer of a governor is being honoured,” said Fr Daniel Habib, a Lahore priest. “Hundreds of lawyers are proudly presenting themselves to save Qadri; this is barbarianism. Instead of condemning such an act, he is being made a hero.”

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