Aasia Bibi’s case: Weighed down by guilt, blasphemy accuser mulls pulling back

Published: January 21, 2012
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She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 after drinking water from a well reserved for Muslims and allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 after drinking water from a well reserved for Muslims and allegedly making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

ISLAMABAD: 

A guilty prayer leader prowls the narrow, fetid streets of Ittanwali village in Nankana district.

At the forefront of a popular, polarising case, Qari Salam ostensibly regrets filing a blasphemy charge against an impoverished Christian woman, Aasia Bibi.

The source of his guilt – realisation that the case was not based on facts but on hyped religious emotions and personal bias of some village women.

Aasia has been languishing in Sheikhupura jail since a sessions court awarded her death sentence for insulting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Support from London

Qari, according to some of his close friends, was now thinking of not pursuing the case anymore and expressed his desire to some of his friends, only to find himself in a difficult situation when activists of a religious organisation ‘convinced’ him not to change his mind.

“We will chase her through hell … don’t worry about the money, hiring best lawyers,” Salam told The Express Tribune, quoting the son of Khatm-e-Nabuwat’s London chapter’s leader.

The leader’s son flew in to Nankana from London after hearing that Salam might not go to Lahore High Court (LHC) when the review petition against Aasia’s conviction is taken up.

Salam himself, however, denied he ever thought of backtracking from his stance.

“How can I change my mind,” he said. “I believe it will bring me a better place in heaven. It gives me pleasure, it is my pride,” Salam told The Express Tribune.

Salam said Khatm-e-Nabuwat had hired Mustafa Chaudhry as counsel to fight his case in the higher court, and were ready to go to an extent to seek death for Aasia.

Counsel seek bail

While bullets may have silenced Aasia’s lone supporter, former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, they have faltered in the face of the silent resolve of her counsel.

Despite death threats from religious right, Aasia’s lawyers are now planning to seek bail for her from LHC.

“Yes, we are ready to file a bail application and will be moving ahead with it in a couple of weeks,” said Rai Ajmal, one of the two lawyers who were Aasia’s counsel in Nankana court which sent her to gallows in 2010.

A review petition against the verdict filed by Rai, and a fellow lawyer Sardar Khan Chaudhry, is pending before the LHC and there are little chances that it can be taken up for at least another three years.

Rai said the LHC is still hearing review petitions filed in 2006-07, and judges are reluctant to use their discretionary powers to take up Aasia’s case on a priority basis due to its controversial nature.

Aasia’s review petition was filed in 2010 and, according to sources in the LHC, it will purportedly not be taken up before 2015, while Aasia languishes in jail.

Both Rai and Chaudhry appeared convinced that the top provincial court would rule in favour of a bail plea they were going to file if the decision was based on the evidence, and not religious sentiments on the streets.

Former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated last year by one of his security guards for raising his voice in favour of Aasia’s release and calling for a review of the country’s blasphemy laws.

The intensity of opposition by religious right forced the government to withdraw plans of reviewing the laws enacted by former dictator General Ziaul Haq.

The same religious fervour is expected to cast shadows on future verdicts in the case as well.

While he did not say anything explicitly, Rai said he did fear for his, and colleague’s life for pursuing a ‘very sensitive’ case that has evoked popular religious sentiments.

Aasia would have been acquitted by the Nankana court had the case been heard dispassionately, he said.

Threatening the lawyers

A neutral trial of the case seems to be a forgone conclusion though, in the face of opposition by religious outfits like Khatm-e-Nabuwat and Tehrik-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool.

Activists of both organisations, individuals closely associated with the case said, had been threatening not only the lawyers with dire consequences but also Salam for his purported backtracking on the case.

Convener of Hurmat-e-Rasool Maulana Ameer Hamza, also a top leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, denied that his organisation’s activists were threatening anybody to stop court proceedings in the case.

He refused to commit, however, that his outfit would accept if the LHC either acquit or grant bail to Aasia.

“What we say is that court proceedings must be respected … and after LHC there is the Supreme Court as well. We won’t let it go easily,” he said.

(Read: The year of fear)

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2012. 

Reader Comments (46)

  • owais
    Jan 21, 2012 - 5:38AM

    what is the Khatm-e-Nabuwat’s son doing in london, a city full of kafirs and blasphemers? bring him back to pakistan, sue him on consorting with kafirs and blasphemersRecommend

  • Zeffos
    Jan 21, 2012 - 5:53AM

    Ah guilt o guilt! So even the madmen flounder! So it seems.

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  • Dr Jamil Chaudri
    Jan 21, 2012 - 6:52AM

    Salman Taseer should not be regarded as the lone supporter of Madame Aasia Bibi. I for one want to be counted as well. And so should every God fearing person.
    .
    I am not against the blasphemy laws as such; I am against the way these laws are applied in Pakistan. Presently, this law is being used to suppress minorities, and make them second class citizens of the Republic.
    .
    By the way, Salman Taseer was by school friend. In 1961 Salmeen Taseer, I and 4 other friends hiked-and-jeeped the length of Kaghan Valley, Balakot to Babusar Pass, with side trips to Shogran and Saif-ul-Mulook.

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  • naeem hussain
    Jan 21, 2012 - 7:53AM

    Why when ever a non Muslim is involved in blasphemy is innocent and is a victim of bias Muslims. Why every Muslim accused for terrorism in the West is guilty even before the trial?

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  • arif khan
    Jan 21, 2012 - 8:14AM

    what are the british doing? why are they giving sanctuary to people in london who promote hate and bigotry in pakistan?

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  • sick of this nonsense
    Jan 21, 2012 - 8:34AM

    hats off to the lawyers representing Aasia bibi. They are the true protectors of Islam by protecting the weak and innocent.

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  • JSM
    Jan 21, 2012 - 8:39AM

    In Pakistan a person is sentenced to death on basis of a :…. case (which) was not based on facts but on hyped religious emotions and personal bias of some village women.” The person who accused her is now regretting having filed charges against her. The accused is in the jail since the last 1 year and her review petition will come up before the courst after 4 years. What sort of judicial system has Pakistan established. Is Pakistan a civilised society or a pack of Barbarians? I see no future for Pakistan as a country and as a nation.

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  • marty
    Jan 21, 2012 - 9:05AM

    hehe and people say it’s the religion of peace,love and understanding.no wonder allah is punishing you with drones.

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  • HoneyBee
    Jan 21, 2012 - 9:26AM

    @owais:
    the shows who sponsored them . . .!!!

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  • Naseem Islam
    Jan 21, 2012 - 9:46AM

    It is a shame that British Government plays into the hand of such clerics by giving them permission to stay in Britain. Seriously, British government should check out the activities of such organization. I bet these people collect funds from the British Asians in the name of Islam and use it to terrorise Christians and Hindu’s in Pakistan.

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  • Sadia
    Jan 21, 2012 - 12:59PM

    @naeem hussain:
    terrorism kills innocent men, women and children – blasphemy (alleged or real) does not kill anyone.

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  • sars
    Jan 21, 2012 - 1:04PM

    @marty:
    thats an unfair and unhelpful generalization. Most people everywhere are fair and just at heart (irrespective of religion) and we are no different.

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  • Saad
    Jan 21, 2012 - 1:46PM

    @naeem hussain:
    That is because we muslims never stand up for thr right thing, all we saw in this case was a huge number of radical mullahs taking the whole country in their hand in support of Mumtaz Qadri.. How many rallies did we see in support of Asia Bibi or rallies AGAINST Mumtaz Qadri? And according to Islam and almost every other kind of law, if you do not speak up against something that is wrong and let it happen, you are a part of that vicious act, so yeah their analysis of Muslims is not unfair
    An american strike kills our soldiers, there are demostrations all around Pakistan, and just few weeks later Taliban kill our soldiers and nobody seems to care?
    It would better if we stop crying about how we are portrayed around the world and instead we work towards improving our image through our acts?

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  • waqas
    Jan 21, 2012 - 2:40PM

    @ all minorities should plz leave Pakistan, this country has nothing to give us, we will be and remain second class citizen. Wether Pakistan remains islamic or turned into secular country, as long as the mindset of the majority Pakistan dont change, there will be no tolerance or humanity in Pakistani society. If this attitude remains where most Pakistani muslims thinks that islam is superior and best way of life, we will never be respected or accepted by them. How difficult is to understand that humanity is above all religions!

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  • John Bosco
    Jan 21, 2012 - 2:58PM

    @Saad: You have rightly pointed.

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  • Ahmandr
    Jan 21, 2012 - 3:20PM

    Pakistan is doomed. Lets be realistic

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  • Jan 21, 2012 - 3:29PM

    Vienna,January 21,2012
    Sentiments are the best evidence in all Pakistani courts
    seeking heavenly blessings.In the sub continental India
    mob courts are also taken in by sentimental evidences
    against Maqbool Fida Hussain,Taslima Nasreen or Salman
    Rushdie.These are the days of sentimentalists.
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM India
    –Kulamarva Balakrishna

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  • Azmat
    Jan 21, 2012 - 5:31PM

    When you kill all the innocents, only the guilty will remain

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  • Waqas
    Jan 21, 2012 - 8:10PM

    @Sars

    u dont like generalization of muslims right? dont u guys do the same when it comes to ameircans, hindus, jews?

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  • Jan 21, 2012 - 8:31PM

    Whenever this type of news is read, my blood boils and think why I should not take a gun and kill all these religious crooks, who take pride in killing a poor mother on false accusations under a nasty blasphemy law. The Chief Justice of SC will also be a party if he do not interfere in this religious murder games of some criminal mindsets.

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  • verk
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:06AM

    @marty:
    Well said!

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  • verk
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:07AM

    @Sadia:
    Bravo. Well said.

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  • sam
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:09AM

    The blasphemy laws make me ashamed to be a Pakistani. I am a Muslim but the laws go against the spirit of Islam. Waiting 4 years for a review petition because the judges are afraid of religious extremists ! and the CJ of the SC is too busy hearing spurious cases against a democratically elected govt.!! Perhaps the judiciary should get its own house in order.

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  • Umer
    Jan 22, 2012 - 12:54AM

    @naeem hussain:

    Why when ever a non Muslim is involved
    in blasphemy is innocent and is a
    victim of bias Muslims.

    Because they invariably are.

    Why every
    Muslim accused for terrorism in the
    West is guilty even before the trial?

    I don’t know if its true as in west only court can decide guilt and punish accordingly, media only speculates. However, how many Muslims get killed in west before being given a chance for a trial, unlike blasphemy law victims in Pakistani? There is simply no comparison between the two situations.

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  • abdullah
    Jan 22, 2012 - 1:22AM

    @waqas:
    u r most welcome to migrate we dont mind we will bid farewell to u

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  • sam
    Jan 22, 2012 - 5:02AM

    @abdullah: Shame on you. Minorities are as Pakistani as you are and have as much right to live without fear as you have. Why should they leave ?

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  • Hussain Syed
    Jan 22, 2012 - 5:47AM

    i wish all of pakistan had the mindset of express tribune readers… we would be so far ahead. But we have to carry the baggage of religious bigots, terrorists, and culturally reclusive fanatics….

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  • abdullah
    Jan 22, 2012 - 1:23PM

    @sam:
    they are welcome to live but as dhimmi we dont mind pakistan was made for muslims not for liberals

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  • Saad
    Jan 22, 2012 - 2:01PM

    @waqas:
    I feel ashamed and sorry for the minorities of Pakistan, and the most I feel ashamed for is that we have done almost nothing to protect your people’s rights at all, you have every right to feel the way you do for Pakistan and its so called Muslims, who claim to follow Islam at its best but do not follow its basic tenets of fairness and equality, this is not the Pakistan that was supposed to be when Quad e Azam fought for it. If he had any indication of what Pakistan will become in the future, he would have preferred living as a minority even if he was paid to fight for Pakistan, because the freedon he fought for doesn’t exist here!

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  • Saad
    Jan 22, 2012 - 2:13PM

    @John Bosco:
    I just said what I felt was true :)

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  • Waqas
    Jan 22, 2012 - 2:42PM

    @ Abdullah

    Western countries were not made for muslims and sharia laws, so ask ur muslim brothers/sisters to get back to Pakistan!

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Jan 22, 2012 - 2:50PM

    @Saad: {It would better if we stop crying about how we are portrayed around the world and instead we work towards improving our image through our acts}

    HA HA you must be joking or simply day dreaming. Our poor image has nothing to do with our acts of ommission and commission. Its all due the conspiracy of Jews / Indians / American imperialism and the rest except ourselves. Go get a life. We are a pure nation and cant do anything wrong. Dont try to swim against the tide and risk drowning. HA HA

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  • Hasan Mehmood
    Jan 22, 2012 - 3:10PM

    @Saad:

    {If he had any indication of what Pakistan will become in the future, he would have preferred living as a minority even if he was paid to fight for Pakistan}

    If I could travel back in time, show the Quaid whats in store down the line, I would bet my last penny that he would have backed off. I am not sure if I would agree but surely know he would.

    He gave us a great nation with limitless potential and a vision of progressive, liberal outlook and of course complete religious freedom without state interference and look what we have done to it.

    I am offering Juma prayers under police guard in a Muslim country and ……………………………………..

    Over emphasis on religion everywhere produces the same bigoted / prejudiced mindset. Its true for American Christians and Israeli Jews as well.

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  • Saad
    Jan 22, 2012 - 3:14PM

    @abdullah:
    I think you were not taught the true meaning of Pakistani flag in 1st and 2nd grades, so let me teach you a very short lesson, the green part in our national flag represents the Muslim population and the white stripe represents the non Muslim population, that’s all you need to know about our flag. Pakistan was meant to be a country for everyone, but that’s not the case anymore
    And as far as your taunt against liberals is concerned, I consider myself conservative since I follow Islam because I consider its my duty assigned by Allah to protect the rights of minoities in my country, it would be better if you leave Pakistan since you reject Quad e Azam’s words on Pakistans minorities as well right? Let me quote him to you in my next postRecommend

  • M M Malik
    Jan 22, 2012 - 3:29PM

    The blasphemy laws in Pakistan are against the teachings of Islam. The punishment for blasphemy is in the hereafter and not through the sections of Pakistan penal codes.

    By believing in the concept of trinity Aasia bibi and millions of others are not on the true path and have committed the ultimate blasphemy.
    Our Holy Prophet (saw) however cordially met Christian representatives in his mosque and after the first revelation sought the opinion of Naufal bin Warqa, a Chirstian.

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  • abdullah
    Jan 22, 2012 - 4:30PM

    @Waqas: try to send our muslims back from your Christendom we dont mind but you have to accept dhimmi status no other option

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  • naeem hussain
    Jan 22, 2012 - 4:58PM

    What about innocent Muslims accused for terrorism because of the extremism of Jews and [email protected]:

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  • Waqas
    Jan 22, 2012 - 5:36PM

    @Abdullah

    facts remains muslims are enjoying more rights and freedom in a secular countries than all minorities in islamic countries together! Period!

    if we treat muslims in west the way u muslims are treating us, imagine what would happens;
    mosque will be destroyed, Quran will be burnt, no islam propaganda allowed, women are not allowed to wear islamic dress( same way like christians women are not allowed to wear skirt in Pakistan), no rights to become PM or President, hatred will be teached at school against muslims (the same happens in Pakistani schools against non-muslims) , every muslim wil be kidnappend and forced to be non-muslim, every muslim should read all the verses from the Bible (like we non-muslims have to read the Quran forcibely) no islamic tv channel allowed, and if we implemented our way of blasphemy laws all the muslims would have been in jail for insultingdisrepecting non-muslims, but hey thanks to our religion wich teach us humanity, love and tolerance, these things are not happening!

    Imagine how would the response from the islamic countries be, when these things turned out to be true? Jihad, Terrorism, Bomb Blast? LOL!

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  • Saad
    Jan 22, 2012 - 7:04PM

    @Waqas:
    I would just like to say that don’t confuse the acts of us Muslims with the true teachings of Islam, unfortunately we do not follow Islam in its true essence of peace and harmony!!

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  • Saad
    Jan 22, 2012 - 7:11PM

    @naeem hussain:
    I have never heard of innocent Muslims being acuused of terrorism because of Christian or Jewish extremists, do you even know what you’re talking about?

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  • Waqas
    Jan 22, 2012 - 9:50PM

    @ Saad

    even if u follow the true spirits of Islam, there will be still little tolerance and freedom left for atheist/minorities/liberals/secularist etc..

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  • Dr Jamil Chaudri
    Jan 22, 2012 - 11:09PM

    @Waqas:
    The Spirit of Islam is the essence of liberality of thought, and in thought. Whatever your religion, you are MY BROTHER. I lived in Manchester and one of my best friends was Gurbachan Singh Bakhar, I lived in Switzerland and my BEST friend was Brinder Singh Gill, right now one of my best friends is Venkat Gudivada.
    .
    I assure you extremists are everywhere, even in GB, Switzerland and in the USA. You should see some of the remarks (in print, in the New York Times) of people praising the marines for urinating over dead bodies, in Afghanistan.
    .
    Despite all this manifestation of hatred, it will be you, I and other like-minded people working together that WE SHALL OVERCOME; we will PREVAIL over these forces of EVIL who act in the name of their religion, while in reality they abuse their own faith.
    .
    I salute you for trying to educate your fellow citizens.

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  • Reeba
    Jan 23, 2012 - 12:21AM

    All those who support blasphemy laws are doing blasphemy themselves because they are belittling the glory of God by saying a human with a few words can infuriate the almighty God. Do you think if someone says a few bad words against God, it will reduce God’s power? Instead of acknowledging the ignorance of the person and leaving judgement to God, Pakistan created blasphemy laws and gave the rest of the world another reason to degrade Pakistan.

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  • Isaaq
    Jan 23, 2012 - 1:28AM

    @naeem hussain:
    In the West, a fair trial can be guaranteed, with evidence not based on hearsay and personal vendettas, but concrete evidence. In Pakistan, the law is perverse and a person can be sentenced to death without real evidence.
    If the blasphemey law is so good, why can’t it be applied equally to all citizens and religious faiths? If a Christian or other minority accuses a Muslim of blasphemy, what happens? Exactly.

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  • sars
    Jan 25, 2012 - 8:06PM

    @Waqas:
    actually i dont because i believe that our problems are we ourselves and solutions will come from us.Generalization much?

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  • Thomas
    Feb 1, 2012 - 8:39PM

    Blasphemy laws must be abolished now!
    Now the UN has ruled that the right to blaspheme is part of freedom of expression as enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
    UN Human Rights Committee takes article 19 relating to freedom of expression and says there will be no blasphemy ban. It is a setback for the Muslim organization OIC that demanded that blasphemy is prohibited.

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