Sentenced to die

Published: February 2, 2012

Aasia bibi, the poor Christian woman accused of blasphemy, is languishing in jail and forced to cook her own food in the fear that prison cooks may poison her.

Even though scores of people have been handed down a verdict of the death penalty for violating the country’s blasphemy laws, not a single person has been executed by the state for the offense yet. This is because almost all cases heard under the blasphemy laws are based on evidence that is by no means incontrovertible, usually target the weak in society and almost always have an ulterior motive. Such seems to be the case with Sufi Mohammad Ishaq, a cleric living in the US who returned to Punjab in 2009. He was made the custodian of a shrine and was apparently very popular among his followers. It was this popularity that led him to be convicted, as some felt that his disciples bowing down before him, constituted an offense under the blasphemy laws. As with many blasphemy cases, this appears to be a dispute over property. Other clerics in the area were angry that this man, who had just come back from the US was given custody of a shrine. Registering a blasphemy case against him was perhaps the easiest way to wrest control of the shrine. The judge may already have signed the man’s death warrant. Just being accused or convicted of blasphemy is enough for vigilante mobs or rogue policemen to take matters into their own hands.

Even now, Aasia bibi, the poor Christian woman accused of blasphemy, is languishing in jail and forced to cook her own food in the fear that prison cooks may poison her. This is why simply reforming the laws will not work. As long as a society is prepared to use violence against those accused of blasphemy even when it hasn’t been proven, such laws can create serious problems. They provide mobs with the legal rationale to attack the most vulnerable among us, to steal their property and, ultimately, to kill them. The police are often, at worst, active participants and at best, disinterested bystanders. All the odds are already stacked against those wrongly accused of blasphemy. The blasphemy laws only make it harder for them.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2012.

Reader Comments (29)

  • Shakky
    Feb 2, 2012 - 2:07AM

    The Supreme Court and the judiciary in general is silent on this, and decisions by individual judges often seem driven by expediency rather than a reasoned scrutiny of the facts. Lets begin with judges showing some backbone and actually dispensing justice instead of caving to local lynch mobs. The blasphemy laws are disgusting – and the “rubber stamp” judiciary is making things even worse.

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  • hammad
    Feb 2, 2012 - 2:18AM

    This is the worst misuse of a law. It MUST be changed.

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  • Spud
    Feb 2, 2012 - 3:08AM

    For the reasons mentioned in the article the Blasphemy Law should be repealed. However the damage has already been done and Pakistan will suffer forever because of this law. Unless ofcourse people become educated and decide to give a lower priority to religion. But then again this may never occur.

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  • Afaaq
    Feb 2, 2012 - 4:10AM

    Saddening to hear events like these are being used for politics, and the person unlucky to be involved given a life worse than death itself. Salman Taseer should be lauded for his voice against and oppressed woman. Sad that no Politican or TV news anchor talks about her anymore, yet Afia Siddiqui someone who had an affair with a terrorist during marriage to her first husband, got a divorce, left her kids, ran away to wage war on America only to be caught, is cherished like a hero.

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  • Raheel
    Feb 2, 2012 - 4:53AM

    When we have a lots of Hadith about how over Prophet Muhammad (P.B.H.U) treated people with compassion, even people throw stones on him but he never responded in a harsh way( as told in the Hadith) then why these so called Prophet lovers are so cruel and barbaric towards these poor minorities.. Even they (minorities) are not Muslims and are not obliged to obey Islamic rules..!!

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  • HollyCow
    Feb 2, 2012 - 5:11AM

    Nothing that anyone can possibly utter against any religion should be cause for prosecution. It’s beyond ridiculous. It makes you look small and your religion smaller yet. You aren’t serving a greater good by preventing people from voicing an opinion, regardless of however inimical, about religion. It’s just an opinion. No one deserves to lose their liberty or worse over it. Can’t you see the truth of this?

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  • plaintalk
    Feb 2, 2012 - 7:46AM

    Blasphemy law is a tool for the evil people to harass and persecute their preys. Even Akhtar Hameed Khan, was prosecuted under blasphemy law. It started with targeting Christians. Now it has spread to include Muslims. The day may not be far when Munawwar Hasan, Fazlur Rahman, Samiul Haq and the volcano-on-two-legs, a.k.a. Hafiz Saeed are also accused of blasphemy by some complainant and sentenced.

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  • John B
    Feb 2, 2012 - 8:36AM

    Let me see how PAK handles her case. Will PAK president use his constitutional authority to pardon her. Will PAK people come out in protest.

    She is not forgotten, by the way. Thanks for the ET to keep her case alive.

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  • Hanif
    Feb 2, 2012 - 8:58AM

    we got this country for the freedom of religion, not for Muslims but for everyone. Recommend

  • Feb 2, 2012 - 9:42AM

    How do we save this Innocent woman . any ideas people ?
    Now we have to do something ourselves as the law & govt is not doing anything
    please advise

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  • Feb 2, 2012 - 10:10AM

    I still Support Salmaan Taseer on his say on these Blasphemy laws. These laws are man made and were introduced back by Zia to just misuse them. These laws are worse. They need to be changed.

    Tell me any good use? :)

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  • You Said It
    Feb 2, 2012 - 10:35AM

    As the US prepares to leave Afghanistan and we rush in to help our veritable arms establish their rule over that hapless country, the blasphemy laws will only get stronger. In order for Pakistan to maintain ideological control of the Taliban, it must be the “most faithful” among the faithful. There will be many more Sufi Mohammad Ishaq’s and Aasia Bibi’s.

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  • ashok sai
    Feb 2, 2012 - 10:52AM

    What one can expect from Talibanised society ? I really pity for this woman, may god bless and save her.

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  • Nadir H. Khan
    Feb 2, 2012 - 12:15PM

    I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. I hand my head in shame in front of my Christian brothers and sisters. Kudos ET for highlighting her plight…

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  • MastMaula
    Feb 2, 2012 - 12:43PM

    It is saddening to see that some people even with good faith here are supporting Asia Bibi by refereing ‘Hadith’. Where does the difference lie between people who just differ in interpretation of these documents and records? Why don’t peolpe learn to use their brains and their sense of humanity to support or denounce something!!!!!

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  • Liberal
    Feb 2, 2012 - 1:12PM

    this country is in a very sad state.

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  • Nadir H. Khan
    Feb 2, 2012 - 2:08PM

    I am ashamed to be a Pakistani. I hang my head in shame in front of my Christian brothers and sisters. Kudos ET for highlighting her plight…

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  • leila rage
    Feb 2, 2012 - 3:47PM

    What is there left to feel for any pakistani with a conscience expect disgust, shame and aversion?

    Innocent people are put in prisons, harrassed and killed and the real criminals are every where having a ball of a time.

    This is just sick.

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  • FJ
    Feb 2, 2012 - 4:41PM

    @ashok sai:
    Also pity on Indian Muslims who were burnt in India by extremist Hindus.

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  • STRIVER
    Feb 2, 2012 - 7:11PM

    What a mess this law has crerated. Get rid of it.

    Remember Hakook-ul-ibaad are given more weight over HakookAllan when we are told in no uncertain terms that God can forigve Hakook-Allah but not Hakook-ul-ibaad, unless the person we have wronged intercedes and forgives us our wrong doing against him/her.

    Notice, Quran does not refer to Muslims alone in Hakook-ul-Ibaad but to all mankind and all God’s creation.

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  • Deepwater
    Feb 2, 2012 - 7:13PM

    @FJ Race riots in India must be condemned but cannot be used to justify Pakistan’s blasphemy law. There is no law in India, and in any other civilized countries, that systematically targets “non believers” like the blasphemy law does. Please don’t draw false parallels.

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  • Karim
    Feb 2, 2012 - 10:43PM

    This case will always remind me of Salman Taseer the great. He called the law what it is and see what happened to him. But his courage is an example for all those who place humanity under revenge. Recommend

  • Shenny Kaur, New Dehli
    Feb 2, 2012 - 11:13PM

    Why are Muslims sects in Pakistan so uneasy with each other? More Muslims live in India among a sea of Hindus and there are no Pakistani style blasphemy laws and yet the Indian Muslims preach and live in harmony with all and also do not target Ahmadia or Christians.

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  • Abdul Haq
    Feb 3, 2012 - 2:47AM

    Because we are getting close to perfection and after exclusion of minorities we are going to kill each other to make it a “pure” state. Anybody who is not like us must be eliminated is the desease that only end in our own demise. Anyone who promote or endorse racism, radicalism, favoritism, controlism etc has actually an equal share in such laws and it’s abuse.

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  • zahn
    Feb 3, 2012 - 7:01AM

    @Hanif:…mr hanif but this doesnt mean that monirities should start insulting islam and prophet…

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  • zahn
    Feb 3, 2012 - 7:45AM

    Mr. ghalib in the presence of this law,no one can openly abuse your Prophet..if this law is changed,then every other person will start abusing the prophet openly..this law should not be changed but something should be done to control its misuse…..can u tell what should be done to a person who abuse our prophet?@Ghalib:

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  • zahn
    Feb 3, 2012 - 7:52AM

    mr nadir,if somebody abuses your mother and father.will you hand your head in shame in front of them????..mr nadir your christian sister (asia bibi) has abused your prophet..your christian brothers and sisters should be ashamed in front of you…and be proud to be a pakistani of having a law that protects respect of your prophet…it is the misuse of this law which is shame full,not the law itself…think positive@Nadir H. Khan:

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  • zahn
    Feb 3, 2012 - 8:18AM

    mr deepwater,those were religious riots not race riots..muslims were killed purely on religious basis and in ur country muslims are killed in more systematic way.police will be standing and muslims will be killed,burnt or beaten to death..2ndly,blesphemy law is meant to protect the respect of our religion and prophet so that nobody can openly insult our religion..we care for our religion thats why we e a law..if you and your civilized countries dont care for your religion what can i say….its the misuse of the law which is bad
    not the law itself…@deepwater

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  • kaalchakra
    Feb 3, 2012 - 8:26AM

    Striver Bhai

    That does not quite correctly explain Allah’s views. In Allah’s view, the greatest crime a human being can commit is shirk – which is worshipping an unIslamic God, or worshipping God unIslamically (assigning companions etc).

    Furthermore, in Allah’s view, Muslims and non-Muslims have somewhat different positions. So what can be taken from them without being punished by Allah is a bit different.

    Best.

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