LAHORE: Blasphemy accused, Asia Bibi awaits next hearing of her appeal – as she was sentenced to death over Blasphemy row.
Asia Noreen Bibi, a 41-year-old Christian woman, has now spent 3 years in prison as she faces capital punishment after an absurd blasphemy conviction.Subsequently, two eminent Pakistani politicians who questioned her sentence were murdered: the then Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, who was assassinated by his own bodyguard, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was shot dead by unknown men.
In June 2009, Asia went to get water while picking fruits in the fields near her village. Some Muslim women co-workers objected to Asia touching the water bowl because she was a Christian and therefore unclean. Five days later, the Muslim women claimed that Asia had made blasphemous comments, and a mob gathered to punish her. The police arrested Asia and she was charged with blasphemy. She pined away in jail for a year and half until November 2010, when she was tried and thus pronounced guilty and sentenced to death sentence. An appeal against the verdict was filed which is yet to be decided.
This appears to be just another case when the accusers had other unrelated grudges against Asia. As narrated by a source, Asia Bibi had been involved in a dispute with her neighbours, because a goat belonging to Asia had damaged a trough belonging to one of her neighbours. And it was her Muslim co-workers in the fields who first taunted her about being an unclean Christian.
After the judicial conviction of Asis Bibi, the then Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, predicted that the President would pardon her if she did not win an appeal. Furthermore Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti carried out a first round investigation into the case, which found that she had been falsely accused and the charges were unsubstantiated.Within months both politicians had been murdered, because of their interventions in support of Asia Bibi and against her death penalty.
More or less, three years since she was first thrown in prison, and a year and half since she was sentenced to hang, Asia Bibi is awaiting a hearing date for her appeal to the Lahore High Court. Pakistanis can often wait year after year for such hearing dates. Asia Bibi needs the support of the outside world more than she ever did. Global pressure can create the difference in cases like this.