Pakistan Ambassador Sherry Rehman under investigation for being against blasphemy law
Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Pakistan's Supreme Court has authorised an investigation on blasphemy charges of Sherry Rehman, Pakistani ambassador to the United States and a leader in President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Coming years after a complaint was lodged against her, the court's decision has caused an uproar among civil society groups and the Catholic Church.
Such an investigation is another example of the abusive use of the 'black law', which has already cost the lives of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer (murdered on 4 January 2011) and Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti (a Catholic who was shot 30 times on 2 March 2011).
The case against the diplomat goes back to the fall of 2010 when Asia Bibi affair became front page news around the world. Ms Bibi is a Christian mother of five sentenced to death on blasphemy charges who is still waiting for her appeal to be heard.
During a talk show and in an interview with AsiaNews, Ms Rehman called for changes to the blasphemy law to prevent abuses. To this effect, she presented a draft proposal in parliament, which was eventually dropped a few months later following threats against her from Islamic groups.
After she came out against the law, a businessman in Multan (Punjab), Muhammad Faheem, filed a complaint against her for blasphemy, a charge that can end in life in prison and even the death penalty. Initially, police turned down his application, but he persisted and went to the High Court and eventually the Supreme Court, which yesterday agreed with his request.
In the meantime, Ms Rehman was sent to Washington as ambassador to protect her from vendettas or attacks. Now she faces arrest and possibly a long sentence.
Human rights groups and activists have expressed their disappointment with the court's decision, noting that it is further evidence of the abusive application of the blasphemy law, used more often than not against innocent victims like teenager Rimsha Masih.
Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, spoke to AsiaNews about the case. Visibly saddened by the decision, he explained that "the blasphemy law is used to settle personal disputes and vendettas." In his view, it is now "time to call for interfaith harmony and reduce growing intolerance."