ISLAMABAD: Supporters of blasphemy convict Asia Bibi urge Pakistani courts to hear Asia Bibi’s appeal against death sentence.
Multitudes rallied to uphold Asia Bibi’s cause, a 45-year-old Pakistani Christian woman facing a death sentence on “blasphemy” charges. Her supporters have sternly demanded the courts to hear her appeal in spite of an “unexpected delay” which is unlawful. According to sources: many a times hearing on her appeal has been repeatedly delayed because the courts have been ordered not to hear her case predominantly because of fear of provoking a backlash by the extremist groups who have demanded her execution.
Asia Bibi was born and raised in Ittan Wali, a village in District Sheikhupura. Prior to her detention, Asia worked as a farmhand in Sheikhupura to support her family. She married Ashiq Masih, a brick labourer. Notably, Asia and her family were the only Christians in Ittan Wali. Acccording to some sources, prior to her imprisonment, she was repetitively urged by her fellow workers to convert to Islam, which she refused, provoking the anger of the other villagers. It was in June 2009, when Asia was harvesting falsa berries with her fellow-workers in a field in Sheikhupura. She was asked to get water from a nearby well; she complied but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well. A neighbour of hers, who had been involved in a running dispute with her family about some property damage, saw her and bitterly told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink the same water as a Muslim. A dispute broke in between Asia and her fellow workers later on local cleric was informed that Asia had committed blasphemy. As consequences an infuriated mob stormed at her house dragging her in the public, beating Ais and her family members until she was seized by the police. An FIR under Section 295-C was filed against her. However, she had to wait for over a year before her case was heard in a local court proceeding when finally she was sentenced to death.
Asia’s death sentence provoked anger and strong condemnation from international community and various human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who believe country’s blasphemy laws as a legal platform to settle personal disputes and to persecute religious minorities demanding eliminate these laws. In a statement, Pope Benedict XVI called for forgiveness for her and urged that the human dignity and fundamental rights of everyone in similar situations be respected.