The Jinnah Institute condemned the death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi by a court in the Nankana Sahib district of Punjab, stated a press release issued here.
Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five, is a resident of Chak 3 of the Ittanwali district. In June 2009, she was sentenced on charges of blasphemy, and has been in prison for over a year.
Aasia was sentenced under Section 295B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code, commonly known as the blasphemy laws, which was amended during Ziaul Haq’s rule.
The institute and its board of advisers joined human rights organisations and the civil society in a call for the repeal of the laws being used as a method of persecution of religious minorities and to settle personal vendettas.
According to reports, and an investigation by the National Commission on the Status of Women, Aasia Bibi’s case is rooted in a personal vendetta by a landlord who is allegedly using the issue to settle a score with the victim.
President of the Jinnah Institute Sherry Rehman said, “It is clear that Aasia Bibi is yet another victim of the shocking prejudice that pervades our institutions.” “If all institutions of the state, including the judiciary, cannot protect its minorities from abuse, they must no longer be complicit in their victimisation. The blasphemy law has been abused for over twenty years as an instrument of communal supremacism, and must be removed now.”
Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia analyst at Human Rights Watch and Jinnah Institute advisory board member said, “Aasia Bibi’s case should serve as a wake-up call to Pakistan’s independent judiciary which urgently needs to address bigotry and incompetence in its ranks and to the government that needs to find the political will to repeal the blasphemy laws.”
According to the press release, the institute called for the repeal and urgent review of the blasphemy laws by parliament and for the Lahore High Court to take up the appeal under due process in order to give Aasia Bibi a fair trial.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 17th, 2010.