12/13/2010, 00.00
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Pakistan's blasphemy law claims another innocent victim

by Jibran Khan
Another "Asia Bibi" case, an Ismaili doctor jailed for throwing away a business card of a man named "Muhammad", after the prophet of Islam. Bishop Rufin: "I pray that Asia Bibi will be able to celebrate Christmas with her family."

Lahore (AsiaNews) – As protests and appeals for the freedom of Asia Bibi mount, the controversial blasphemy law has claimed another victim from a religious minority, this time of the Ismaili Muslim sect that is headed by the Aga Khan. The episode proves, if proof were ever needed, how the blasphemy law harms Pakistani civil society of. The incident took place in Hyderabad, the second city of the province of Sindh. Naushad Walyani, a doctor, is in prison for a seemingly trivial gesture. A pharmaceutical salesman, Muhammed Faizan, visited him on December 9 to sell certain products. The doctor ''after taking the business card of the sales representative threw it in the trash'' writes a local newspaper. Clearly annoyed by the gesture, Faizan returned later with some colleagues to “teach the doctor a lesson”. A violent quarrel broke out between the two.

The agent threatened to report the doctor for blasphemy for not respecting the sacred name engraved on the business card. According to local media reports, on December 10 Faizal’s colleagues attacked the doctor, who, following a complaint to police under the Blasphemy Act was arrested and is now awaiting trial. His apology and the assurance that he “had no intention of insulting the Prophet by throwing the card in the trash' has served no purpose. The complaint was supported by local religious leaders.

In the meantime, the debate on the need to change or abolish the blasphemy law continues. In London and New York Pakistani Christians held demonstrations in front of the national consulate and United Nations Headquarters. The protesters demanded the release of Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy. They handed over a memorandum demanding the immediate release of women and protested against the decision of Lahore High Court to prevent the President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning her before the appeal proceedings. The High Court however, has not yet set a hearing date to review the ruling. The blasphemy law continues to be used as a sword of Damocles over the heads of Christians and other religious minorities who know they can be accused at any time, and that the law and the police are not on their side.

The bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi, supported the petition presented to the United Nations office in Islamabad by the organization "Life for All" on the World Day for Human Rights, on December 10 last. "I support this request of human rights groups in favour of Asia Bibi. I pray that Asia Bibi will be able to go home and celebrate Christmas with her family. My message is that all Christians of Pakistan are Pakistanis who love their country, serve their country, have the right to practice their faith and express their beliefs without fear of being killed by extremists or sentenced to death by the state, "said Mgr. Rufin. Father Anwer Patras also signed the petition: "The Catholic Church is close to the family of Asia Bibi, we hope that she will be reunited with her family soon. And I can only appreciate the efforts of the human rights groups in Pakistan and all that they do for her. "

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