Pakistan’s most famous female prisoner on death row Asia Noreen Bibi, has spent seventh consecutive Christmas behind the bars. Churches all over the world urged the believers to spare a thought for those who are suffering for the sake of their Christian faith. Asia Bibi mother- of- five, has been whining behind the bars since 2009.
Asia Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy by her co-workers back in 2009. Later on, in 2010, a court in district Nankana awarded her capital punishment, which was later challenged and upheld by a two-member bench of Lahore High Court in 2014. Her appeal case is currently pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The appeal case was postponed when one of the member judge refused to be part of the full-bench which was to hear the case. Her defense lawyers have submitted an application to the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, to appoint another bench for the case hearing as soon as possible.
This Christmas was her seventh festive season in the solitary confinement in an isolated prison cell in Multan jail. This case has sparked global outrage and condemnation, as activists and Asia Bibi’s supporters accused the judiciary of overlooking the lack of substantial proof, inconsistent witnesses and the scenario surrounding the incident.
Responding to the plight of the Christian woman, Pope Francis also raised his voice in this connection calling for justice for the respondent. The Pontiff had also received a delegation from Pakistan, including Asia Bibi’s family and friends at the Vatican.
Responding to the augmenting pressure surrounding Asia Bibi’s plight Australian MP Andrew Hastie, who stated: “I rise today to highlight the case of Asia Bibi and the plight of persecuted Christian minorities in Pakistan. Mrs. Bibi, a Christian in the Punjab province of Pakistan has been detained on death row for last six years, often in solitary confinement because of the ongoing threats to her physical safety in prison.”
While further addressing the Australian Parliament he said: “Her apparent crime, she drank from the cup that was intended for Muslim recipients. Last week I was honored to meet Mr. Wilson Chaudhry- Chairman of the British Pakistani Christians Association. The Association seeks to promote religious freedom in Pakistan and advocate for those like Mrs. Bibi whose human rights have been denied because of religious faiths.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Pakistan is a signatory; makes very clear those basic rights. Article 2, specifically states everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
“Freedom of religion is foundational- without it I deny the potential for human flourishing. Australia is a good friend of Pakistan. We care very deeply about the religious liberty in this country. We are also universally opposed to the death penalty particularly in this case. So we hope and pray for the speedy release of Asia Bibi and those like her.”
The situation of religious freedom was portrayed in an annual report by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, (USCRIF) saying that the situation worsened in 2016. “Pakistan’s religious freedom environment has long been marred by religiously-discriminatory constitutional provisions and legislation, including its blasphemy laws. For years, the Pakistani government has failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence. Pakistani authorities also have failed to consistently bring perpetrators to justice or take action against societal actors who incite violence.”