03/10/2016, 14.17
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan’s Christians pray for Asia Bibi: New threats to her life

by Jibran Khan

The woman, in prison on charges of blasphemy, is a target for Islamic radicals, who are clamoring for her death. The threats have increased since the hanging of Qadri, who murdered Bibi’s defender. Priest: "Let us pray and fast for her safety and that of all the other prisoners."

 

Rawalpindi (AsiaNews) - The Christian faithful have responded en mass to the call made yesterday by the Catholic Church, for prayers for Asia Bibi - a Christian woman in jail on charges of blasphemy - after renewed threats to her safety.

The prayers were held in Rawalpindi, but also in Jhelum, Lahore and Sialkot. Pakistan’s Supreme Court decision to execute Mumtaz Qadri – who murdered the Punjab governor, Salman Taseer,, who had defended Asia Bibi – has sparked massive protests by Muslim radicals demanding the hanging of Christian women.

Arrested June 19, 2009 and sentenced to death at first instance in November 2010, Asia Bibi has since been subjected to solitary confinement for security reasons. Supporters of Qadri, who meanwhile are building a monument in his memory, have put pressure on the government to carry out the woman’s death sentence.

Jhelum priest, Fr. Arshed John, took part in the time of prayer, "We fast and pray for Asia Bibi – he says - and for all others who are imprisoned, let us pray for their safety and for their release. Now our concern for her has increased, but we pray that tolerance and peace prevail in our country. "

The day of prayer called by the Church, said Fr. John, also has another reason: "Yesterday we commemorated the third anniversary of the brutal attack in which a crowd targeted at least 70 houses [of Christians], and the perpetrators of this act are still at large." The reference is to an accident that took place on March 9, 2013 in the Christian Joseph Colony, near Bah Badami (Lahore). Following accusations against a young Christian man of blasphemy, a group of Muslims set fire to the settlement, destroying houses and injuring 35 people.

Yesterday brought news of the release of Shahbaz Taseer, son of the assassinated governor, kidnapped in August 2011. The youth had been held at a hotel north of Quetta and was freed by the anti-terrorism squad thanks to a tip.

Rahim Ullah Yousaf Zai, journalist and expert on terrorism, provided further details on the release of Shahbaz. According Zai, Taseer was in the hands of the Islamic State, in a field near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. After a Taliban attack, Taseer was taken by militiamen to Kuchlak, area near Quetta, where he was later released.

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