Blasphemy case: I just want my mother back

Published: November 22, 2010
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The daughters of Asia Bibi with an image of their mother, standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura on November 13, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS

The daughters of Asia Bibi with an image of their mother, standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura on November 13, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE: Esha, the 10-year old disabled daughter of the woman who has been awarded death sentence in a blasphemy case, is anxiously waiting for her mother to come home. She doesn’t understand the complications that might be involved in acceptance of her mother’s clemency appeal. All she wants is that President Zardari approves it immediately so that she could be with her mother again.

For the last one and half years, Esha has been weeping for her mother and now her hopes have been raised after Governor Salman Taseer met Aasia Bibi in Sheikhupura Jail on Saturday and assured her that he would take her clemency appeal to the president  to pardon her death sentence.

Talking to The Express Tribune at the family residence in Sheikupura on Sunday, Aasia Bibi’s family said that they were hopeful. “I just want to see my mother,” said Esha, as tears streamed down her cheeks.

The family has been in shock since the day when Aasia Bibi was accused of blasphemy. They lost hope in the middle of ever seeing their mother again. Now they say things may change. “Many people have been coming to this place for the last few days and Esha asks everybody who is that will bring her mother home,” Sidra, the 18-year old elder sister, said.

Aasia has five kids: Naseem, who is married, 22-year old son Imran, 18-year old Sidra, 10-year old Esha and 9-year old Esham. Esha is most attached to her mother as it was she who took care of the special child.

“I met my mother on Tuesday,” Esha said as she also confessed in an innocent tone that she feared her mother was going to die.

The rented house is quiet apart from the visitors who bring a bustle of activity and hope. Sidra now looks after the family chores as well as the needs of Esha. “We have passed through very tough days. The day when my mother was awarded the death sentence was the worst day of my life.,” said Sidra, adding “My father and brother didn’t tell us at first but when we came to know we all got very depressed and didn’t eat anything. Now we have hope that she will be pardoned.”

When asked what plans they have to please their mother when she comes home Sidra replied with a mischievous grin, “What’s the use of a surprise if we reveal it. We are ready to do anything which pleases her and the biggest surprise for us will be her release”.

The family has migrated from their original village of Ittanwali to Gloria Colony, a Christian locality in Sheikhupura. Sidra says: “We don’t want to go back to our village. The women who accused my mother used to work with her and now there isn’t anything left for us there.

We have our house there but we don’t plan to go back”.

She said that they shifted from their native village to Sheikhupura 15 days after the incident as they received threats their house would be set on fire.

Nine year old Esham, who is the youngest daughter of Aasia, now remains quiet most of the time. “She remains afraid and often goes out to play when someone asks her about our mother,” Sidra said. The family is scared and the children traumatised.

Aasia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian woman, was sentenced to death by additional district and sessions court in Sheikhupura on November 9 for allegedly making derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Aasia, mother of five, has denied the charge of blasphemy. She told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith.

Ashiq Masih, husband of Aasia, said that the reason for the accusation was a quarrel that had taken place in which some people had taken offence. He said that a quarrel broke out over serving water to some women. Aasia at the time worked with some women in a Falsa garden owned by one Muhammad Idrees. A woman asked her (Aasia) for a glass of water. When Aasia brought the water in a jug for all the women, one of them said that she “couldn’t drink water from the hands of a Christian.” The other women said that this did make a difference but in between all this, a quarrel ensued between the women and Aasia. “Four days later, a blasphemy case was registered against Aasia,” said Masih.

Interestingly, the incident took place on June 14, 2009 while the FIR was registered under 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code in Saddar Police Station Nankana on June 19, 2000. The complainant, one Qari Salam, a local cleric, wasn’t even present on the occasion of the quarrel between Aasia and the women. “I wasn’t present when the blasphemy occurred but I came to know about this through the women who listened to Aasia speaking against the Holy Prophet (pbuh). I became a complainant because the women couldn’t go to court and the police station,” Qari Salam told The Express Tribune. When asked whether he could pardon Aasia now, he replied, “This is not my personal matter. I could if it were my personal matter. She should be punished”.

Napoleon Qayyum, who is associated with the Community Development Initiative (CDI), a non-profit organisation working for minority rights, brought this incident to the knowledge of President Asif Ali Zardari. He told this correspondent, “Things could have been settled had the issue been resolved at the local level. But it is difficult for a judge in the lower courts to go against the pressure of right-wing parties in blasphemy cases.” The verdict has been challenged in the Lahore High Court already. But the downside to all this is that Aasia has been in jail for over one and half years so far, he added.

When contacted, presidential spokesman, Farhatullh Babar, told The Express Tribune that the President would look into clemency appeal when it reaches to him. “Clemency appeals reach the President through the proper channel. We will look into this when we receive it. Right now, I cannot comment as to how long it will take for it to reach the president,” he maintained.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2010.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • M M Malik
    Nov 22, 2010 - 12:20PM

    Please release her, but make sure she stays alive. If she cannot be protected, please facilitate her immigration to a friendly country.Recommend

  • Atif Khan
    Nov 22, 2010 - 2:22PM

    Societies don’t get destroyed because of Kuffur. They get destroyed because of injustices. We should change now or face what all oppressive societies faced in the end.Recommend

  • sarah
    Nov 22, 2010 - 4:16PM

    I think anybody who claims to be a cleric in any religion should be awarded the role only after proper groundwork. What are these people doing to Islam? Islam condemns injustice as a primary principle . A cleric who wasnt even there has testified against the woman ?! .. Does he not know what Islam preaches ? He should be put ahead as a kafir for going against his own religions teaching and punished there on for putting ahead a malacious image of what he preaches as a so called ‘ maulana ‘ .

    Ridiculous. Islam is a religion of peace and equality and not groupism and jahliat!Recommend

  • Nov 22, 2010 - 9:45PM

    this is so heart breaking……Recommend

  • Khurram
    Nov 23, 2010 - 12:01AM

    Please free her. No more blood in the name of God. Religion might justify killing someone on this ground, but humanity doesn’t. Let her free.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Alvi
    Nov 24, 2010 - 12:56AM

    I observe, an absolute loss of patience in the society. We are fast deteriorating social morals and ethics. We are extremely intolerant and racist. First our puritan ladies refused to drink water from her pitcher and then because of heated arguments we sentence a poor Christian lady of local origin to death. Are we Hindus of 18th Century or Muslims?

    Few centuries ago, our forefathers were Muslims and now, we mostly are fundamentalist Hindus and beggars. We put our own citizen on death row while our nation and leaders dance with Christians and beg for mercy and financial aid. What a society Recommend

  • umal
    Nov 24, 2010 - 9:48AM

    this is every family’s story in Pakistan,i pray this will be over Recommend

  • umal
    Nov 24, 2010 - 9:49AM

    may god give you courage and determinationRecommend

  • A Pakistani
    Nov 25, 2010 - 1:51PM

    We are willing to persecute (illiterate & ignorant) people on the basis of their (so called) blasphemous acts but tell me what should be the punishment for those who have the word of God with them but still do ‘such acts’

    Please read the following link.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/81399/prayer-leader-arrested-on-allegations-of-sexual-assault/

    Our Holy Prophet (PBUH) never meted out such ‘harsh’ punishments to any Muslim or Non-Muslim just because someone said anything against him or the religion, because he (PBUH) believed that only Allah SWT has the right to judge then tell me who the hell gave us the right to start judging……Recommend

  • Nov 27, 2010 - 4:13AM

    “Love thy neighbour”, to hang this Mother and destroy a family is the greatest sin of all. PLEASE stop this barbaric activity and respect all human life – for the sake of this generation and those to come. No one should be killing anyone. She will need protection now and the family should be re-homed somewhere secret and safe.Recommend

  • sohail
    Dec 5, 2010 - 1:24AM

    Please do not punish her if she is saying that she didnt done that…
    Even if she done that we must consider the life style (Seerat-e-Nabwi) of our Prophet MUHAMMAD (pbuh) what HE (pbuh) had done in these type of cases when HE (pbuh) was alive and we can not find any thing except forgivness & more love & care for those who come against Prophet MUHAMMAD(pbuh), by keeping this in mind we must change this law,
    Please do not create differences in a nation and respect each other despite of Race, Tribe, Social status & Religion.
    May ALLAH show us the right path AAmeen.Recommend

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