Soul Stirring Case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan
| Virendra Kumar Gaur, Former IG, BSF - 07 Dec 2018

Soul Stirring Case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan


By V K Gaur

New Delhi, Dec 7, 2018: The shocking events in Pakistan after the acquittal of Asia Bibi by the Supreme Court of (Pakistan) must never be allowed in any society.

After an undue delay, the Government of Pakistan headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to sternly deal with Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party leadership and the significant number of its supporters for the violence and terror that they unleashed in October and November.

The Pak Government is preparing to charge-sheet them for violence during the protests that paralysed the country in late October and early November following an acquittal of Asia Bibi in Blasphemy case. They will be tried for treason, sedition and terrorism-related charges. The trials will, according to the Information Minister of Pakistan, be held in anti-terrorism courts across the country.

Asia Bibi 50 now, is a Catholic Christian. She lived with her family in village Ittanwali in Shekhupura  Punjab (Pakistan). Her husband Ashiq Masih is a kin labourer.

In June 2009, Asia while working in fields as a labourer felt thirsty and drank a sip of water from the cup owned by Muslims. She was hauled up by other women for using a cup of Muslims since she was a Christian hence untouchable.

Arguments followed and she was asked to convert to Islam to earn a pardon. She refused to change her religion and went to her home.

Incidentally, hers was the only Christian family in the village of 300 Muslim families. Soon after an irate mob surrounded her dwelling beat her up mercilessly for insulting Islam and the Prophet. Police arrested her and booked her for Blasphemy.

After the trial, she was found guilty and awarded the death sentence. The high court also rejected her appeal on 16 Oct 2016. After lower court judgement she was lodged in solitary confinement.

In October this Year Pakistan’s supreme court acquitted Asia Bibi in the historic verdict, overturning the death sentence meted out to her over charges of blasphemy.

The court established that Bibi, a Christian, was falsely accused by Muslim women picking fruit with her on 14 June 2009. The allegation stemmed from a quarrel over the fact that she had taken a sip of water from a cup she had fetched for them, which in the eyes of her accusers she wasn’t allowed to touch.

It is relevant to recall that in 1860 the British govt enacted a law. Under the said law it is a crime to disturb religious assembly, trespass burial ground, insult religious beliefs or intentionally destroy or defile a place or object of worship. The offence was punishable up to 10 years jail. Several more clauses were added in 1980s during the reign of Military Ruler Gen. Zia-Ul- Haq. In 1986 death or imprisonment for life for blasphemy against Prophet Muhammed was added in Pakistan.

After Asia was convicted by the apex court of Pakistan the former governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province Salman Taseer spoke in favour of Asia and called for amending the Blasphemy Law.

This annoyed hardliners and he was killed. His killer Mumtaz Qadri was executed as a terrorist.

TLP was formed as a pressure group to prevent judicial execution of Qadri. He became a hero. A large shrine was dedicated to him outside Islamabad. The shrine is visited by a large number of people including government officials. His supporters created TLP -a political party. Soon theTLP had two million followers.

They campaigned for preserving Blasphemy laws in recent elections in Pakistan.

The radical Islamists, are hellbent on ensuring that Blasphemy law does not change. Spearheaded by the Tehreek-e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), violent mobs are threatening to bring the country to grinding halt. They are calling for the heads of the judges who announced the verdict and demanding the government be dissolved.

The TLP is no longer a fringe movement, but one that can choke the capital for weeks. It forced the government to withdraw the appointment of a member of Pakistan’s economic advisory council because he belongs to Ahmadi Muslim faith. It is also a party that won over two million votes in this year’s general elections.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law has been used to relentlessly to persecute religious minorities since the Islamist-inspired Article 295c was added to the penal code, mandating the death penalty for blasphemy against Islam.

The minority population of Hindus and Christians live in constant fear of being falsely implicated by majority population like Asia Bibi. Her husband has pleaded for asylum in the UK. The family has been hiding and living in constant fear of mob lynching.

Photo courtesy – Christian News Journal / Free Malaysia Today

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