11/18/2010, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pope’s appeal for Bibi is wonderful, hope for a quick ruling

Peter Jacob, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistani Church, thanks Benedict XVI for his appeal on behalf of Asia Bibi. He hopes for a quick ruling by the Supreme Court on her petition. Here is an exclusive interview with AsiaNews.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI’s appeal for the release of Asia Bibi is something “wonderful”. The fight to change the blasphemy law will reach Pakistan’s parliament next week. The petition against her conviction is now before the Supreme Court. It is hope that the latter will rule quickly. These are the main points made y Dr Peter Jacob, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Church of Pakistan, in his interview with AsiaNews. Here is the full text.

 Dr Jacob, what do you think about the appeal the Holy Father issued yesterday during the general audience?

 “I think it’s wonderful! I think it will be helpful. It is a powerful voice and it will help us. You know! English language media in Pakistan and human rights activists are aware of the case, and are concerned and are campaigning to have this law on the blasphemy repealed or changed. There is silence from the government, the national and the federal government are busy in ordinary politics.  People at large, the ordinary people of Pakistan remained uninformed since the local language media are not picking up the case.

Is there a real chance to have the blasphemy law changed?

As far as our campaign is concerned, I can tell you clearly that there are parliamentarians we spoke to, and others with whom we will speak this week, and next week, when the session starts. We expect that at least some of them will put on the table the proposal to change the law.

Do you feel backed by the West?

I think, first of all, that it’s time that the situation of Pakistan be thoroughly examined and understood [in the West]. It is sad to see how bad the situation is, but sometimes the analysis is not as good. The situation is changing on a daily basis, moving from one challenge to another. There is the need for the media to investigate thoroughly. It is time for a big change in Pakistan. So many propositions for reform have been made: legal reforms, agricultural reforms, law and policy reforms, policies especially concerning the media and education. There are so many proposals on the table; others are debated in the press and the media. When the time comes, it is not enough to call a spade a spade; change must be encouraged. Which is what the Holy Father has done, telling the government of Pakistan to do something practical to relieve the suffering of the people.

How is Asia Bibi doing? What is in store for her?

“The appeal has been launched. People have met her in custody to tell her that she will not be forgotten. The family is also in contact with some human rights organisation. I expect the Government and the Supreme Court will work together to have the appeal heard. Not all appeals in High Court take a year or so. The law recognises that some people need urgent attention. The Supreme Court of Pakistan can move “suo modo” in some cases, and the government can ease the suffering by not letting matters linger. It is not possible however to let her go home; it is not safe. Outside, someone might try to kill her if she released on bail. The court however can rule quickly.

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