10/31/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Punjab: Christian lawmaker writes open letter to judge representing Mumtaz Qadri

by Jibran Khan
Pervaiz Rafique, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party, wrote to Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, who has taken on the task of defending Salman Taseer’s murderer. Criticism and doubts are being raised about the judicial system. Islamabad bishop praises the lawmaker’s courage. Girl expelled from school for alleged blasphemy is still under shock.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pervaiz Rafique, a Christian member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), wrote an open letter to Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, a former judge of the Lahore High Court. Sharif is currently representing Mumtaz Qadri, a member of the security detail tasked with protecting Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. He was sentenced to death after he killed the governor on 4 January because of the latter’s opposition to the country’s blasphemy law and support for Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian mother, sentenced to death for blasphemy now waiting for her appeal to be heard.

In his letter, the political leader directly addresses the former judge, once “the protector of the law” and “symbol of justice”, asking him how he can defend “a self-confessed criminal”.

Sharif’s support for Taseer’s killer has in fact raised questions about the country’s legal system, made the more serious by the flight of Judge Syed Pervaiz Ali Shah, from the Rawalpindi Antiterrorism Court, who received death threats after he convicted Qadri.

Pervaiz Rafique said he wrote the letter as “a patriotic and concerned Pakistani.” This has earned him the praise of Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, for his “boldness and courage”.

“We support his standing. This shows there are sane people living in our society.” Support for murderers “should be condemned by other politicians as well,” the prelate noted.

Meanwhile, the Masihi Foundation has denounced the treatment of a young Christian girl, Faryal Bhatti, who was expelled from school on blasphemy charges (see Jibran Khan, “Pakistan: ten year old girl accused of blasphemy and sentenced for a spelling mistake,” in AsiaNews, 27 September 2011).

The girl’s mother, Sarafeen Bhatti, is a nurse. She said that the experience has “left a grave impact, which will take a long time to heal”.

Even though important Muslim religious scholars have come to the girl’s defence, downplaying her mistake, mother and daughter have had to flee because of threats from Muslim extremists groups.
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