One would think that Aasia Bibi, the young Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in a Nankana Sahib village in late 2010, had suffered quite enough. For over a year, she has been kept in a ‘special’ cell at the Sheikhupura jail — separated from her husband and young children who remain in hiding. Her family has denied she committed any wrong, and alleges the charges against her stem from her using a cup to drink water also used by fellow Muslim labourer. Her husband lives in fear of death by extremists and there has been concern that Aasia herself will be murdered in prison — as others accused of blasphemy before her, have also met the same fate.
As if all this was not enough, we now hear Aasia has been subjected to ‘torture’ within jail, by a female warden who claims she found ‘illicit’ items in her cell. Few details are available on this matter, but it seems other staffers did little to stop the violation of jail rules that occurred. The abuse or manhandling of a detainee is, of course, prohibited. The guilty warden has since been suspended — but even this action seems to have come rather late in the day, and perhaps many people will support what the warden did (just like how many support what Mumtaz Qadri has done). Torture, of course, is endemic in our jails; no one should suffer it — but the string of miseries imposed on Aasia Bibi seem never to end. There is a possibility that she is being victimised for being a ‘blasphemy accused’ individual. This, too, has happened before.
We appear to be moving steadily, further and further away from the course of justice. We must ask ourselves in all earnestness what this says about the nature of our society. There is a real need to rediscover the compassion and the humanity we have lost. Until we do so, we cannot claim to count ourselves among the civilised nations of the world. Doing more to end the suffering of Aasia Bibi would, at least, help us look in the right direction and perhaps reach out towards the goal we have lost sight of.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2011.
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