Legal Maneuvers In the Case of Asia Bibi

Asif Aqeel, writing for World Watch Monitor, explains some of the recent legal maneuvers in the case of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian mother of five who has been charged with blasphemy. She was sentenced to death and has one more appeal to the Pakistani Supreme Court.
There is a very helpful history of the case and a summary of the efforts of the courts to make it harder to achieve blasphemy convictions. Her hopes appear to be a change in evidence requirements or a pardon from the President.

The appeals judges now explain they had no choice, given the way Pakistan鈥檚 laws are written, and have turned to lawmakers to craft legislation that would empower trial courts to apply a test that would make future blasphemy convictions much more difficult to achieve.聽 That test was not in place when Noreen, popularly known as Asia Bibi, was tried.

Bibi has been offered refuge in Paris, France.
Please sign and spread the word about the petition directly to the President of Pakistan to free Asia Noreen Bibi.

Pakistani official claims govt will not change blasphemy law

I am looking for the actual statement but here is a news report of reassurances to the right wing religious elements that the Pakistani government does not intend to support the private member bill of Sherry Rehman. Her bill would amend the blasphemy law to remove the death penalty and require criminal intent for conviction.

Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah interrupted proceedings in the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament yesterday to make a policy statement that the government has no intention to repeal the blasphemy law enacted during the regime of late military ruler Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Shah also disowned a private bill moved by ruling Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Sherry Rehman proposing changes in the law to abolish a mandatory death sentence and to guard against its misuse.

The government’s assurance came ahead of a countrywide strike called for December 31 by the Tehrik Tahafooz Namoos-e-Risalat, a grouping of hardline religious groups, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.

The groups have also asked the government to explain its stance on the blasphemy law.

“The government considers that its prime responsibility is to protect this law and it will never support any private members’ bill even from the treasury benches in this regard,” said Religious Affairs Minister Shah.

While he may not be speaking for all members of government, this seems like a negative development for Asia Bibi and others who have been jailed for violating this archaic law. As this report notes, even Muslims are at risk:

The blasphemy law has been at the centre of a contentious debate after a lower court in Punjab province sentenced Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian woman, to death last month for insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Asia Bibi has denied the charges and said she was framed following a row with some Muslim women of her village. Rights groups and liberals have complained that the blasphemy law in often misused to settle personal and political scores.

In a recent case, a doctor from a minority Islamic sect was arrested for alleged blasphemy after he threw the visiting card of a sales representative with the first name Muhammad in a dustbin.

In his policy statement, Shah assured Parliament that the government will not allow any wrong to be done to minority communities, who have often complained of false accusations made against them under the blasphemy law.

Pakistani Islamic parties call for a strike on New Years Eve in support of blasphemy laws

Spokesman Abdul Ghafoor Ahmed calls himself a professor, but he is not teaching truth if this news report is citing him accurately. He says the US and UK also criminalize blasphemy. Sadly, many of his listeners probably believe him and assume efforts to change blasphemy laws in his country are reflections of a religious war.

Addressing a crowded press conference at Idara Noor-e-Haq, Professor Ghafoor Ahmed said that Holy Prophet Hazrat Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is the blessing of Allah to whole humanity. He said Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is the most respected person ever born on earth. He regretted anti-Islam elements and their local agents were out to repeal the blasphemy law in Pakistan to achieve their malicious goals against Muslims. Dispelling the misconceptions about the blasphemy bill, he said it was drafted by the clerics hailing from all schools of thought and passed by National Assembly, unanimously. He said that the noble personality of Mohammed (PBUH) is the center of love and respect for the Muslims, adding anti-Islam elements were jealous of this huge respect and love. Citing the laws in the US, UK and other western countries, Professor Ghafoor said that that sentences have also been incorporated in laws of these countries on blasphemy of Hazrat Essa (AS), adding no religion in the world allows blasphemy of the True Messengers of Almighty Allah.

These parties are set to strike on Dec. 31.

KARACHI: Religio-political parties including Jamaat-e-Islmai (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Jamait Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), Jamiat Ahle-Hadith, Tanzeem-e-Islami, Tahreek-e-Islami and others would observe a complete shutter down strike across the country on 31st December 2010 against the conspiracies of present rulers to repeal blasphemy law, said Deputy Chief JI Pakistan Professor Abdul Ghafoor Ahmed on Tuesday.

I am becoming convinced that Asia Bibi and her family will require asylum in the US or UK if she is released.