Blasphemy case : Zardari warned not to grant pardon

Deobandi and Barelvi clerics join hands to warn president against granting a pardon to Aasia Bibi.

Afp/zia Khan November 23, 2010

ISLAMABAD: In an unprecedented move, top Deobandi and Barelvi clerics joined hands to warn President Asif Ali Zardari against granting a discretionary pardon to a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, saying that the decision may trigger adverse reaction.

“I advise him (Zardari) not to take a hasty decision under foreign pressure,” Qari Hanif Jallundari, who represents the Deobandi school of thought, told The Express Tribune by phone from Lahore. “Such a decision will lead to untoward repercussions,” he added.

Hanif’s Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia (WMA) is an umbrella organisation which leads more than 12,000 seminaries across Pakistan, mostly in Punjab, where many people accused of blasphemy have usually lost lives at the hands of religious zealots. An organisation which wields control over Barelvi seminaries has also joined the Deobandis in a bid to change the president’s decision which, they think, he has already taken. The two sects have a long history of sharply differing with each other on almost every issue.

Sahibzada Fazl Karim, a representative of Barelvi seminaries, said his organisation would stage demonstrations across the country if someone involved in a “crime like blasphemy is granted pardon”.

“It would be too much if the woman is set free. Death is the only punishment for a person who commits blasphemy,” Sahibzada Karim told reporters in Karachi on Sunday evening.

At the heart of the controversy is a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi who was sentenced to death by a sessions court in Sheikhupura district for blasphemy – a charge vehemently denied by the woman. The November 8 judgment revived a debate on whether such ‘controversial’ laws should continue or be reviewed.

Liberals, although a minority, believe such laws were enacted by former military ruler General Ziaul Haq in the 1980s to please the religious right, should be revoked to stop their misuse.

Both Qari Hanif and Sahibzada said they had a different perspective.

“Our point of view is…clear. Misuse is insufficient a justification for abolishing any law. Many laws are misused, even the country’s constitution, which is the mother of them all. Does this mean we will have to abolish all of these laws?” Jallundari said.

He advised Zardari to let the case reach him through proper channels – to the high court, then to the Supreme Court and then to the president. “Otherwise, it will be premature… and tantamount to putting (undue) pressure on the judiciary,” Qari said.

More pressure on Zardari for clemency

Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti on Monday ratcheted up the pressure on President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon Aasia Bibi, the Christian mother of five who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

The case began in June 2009 when Bibi was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields. Women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim, she should not touch the water bowl.

Bibi was later arrested by police and prosecuted after women complained that she made derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

“According to my own investigation, it was a personal dispute and she did not commit blasphemy; she is innocent and her case is baseless,” stated Shahbaz Bhatti.

He stated that President Zardari had commissioned him to investigate the case. “I will hopefully submit my report to the president on Wednesday and recommend to him to grant pardon to Aasia Bibi.”

Also, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer on Sunday became the first senior government official to appeal to Zardari for clemency after visiting Bibi in prison.

“We have forwarded her petition to President Asif Ali Zardari and it is with him,” Taseer said. “She is poor and belongs to a minority community and should be pardoned.”

The presidency, however, informed AFP on Monday that it had received no such petition.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI last week also called for Bibi’s release. Human rights activists have expressed concern over the matter.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2010.


Raja Arsalan | 10 years ago | Reply Kashif: If you are not accepting even today that they are the terrorists, there is some real problem, which is to negate the truth. Taliban are not terrorists! This is just disgusting. They claim the responsibility for every attack and want to conquer the whole world to impose their lifestyle, but they not terrorists!!!! They do not believe in nation state system but still they are most patriotic persons on the globe!!! They are recruiting the youngsters from around the Pakistan but still they not terrorists!!! Their leaders, even their "political version" openly say they desire creation of a Caliphate but still they are not terrorists!!!! Yes they are not terrorists but only for those who want to bring back 8th century back. By the way, why should you not prove that they are not terrorists?
Maggie Bockmann | 10 years ago | Reply I read this article with tears in my eyes for so many reasons. First of all, I am so touched by the high level of discourse that Pakistanis on this site maintain, even while disagreeing with one another. I see this over and over in different articles here. I am developing a deep respect for the Pakistani people and for Islam because of this. Thank you for educating this very ignorant American about your country and your faith. Secondly, as a Christian, I am deeply saddened that a Christian, if the accusations are correct, would have such a shallow understanding of her faith as to disrespect the Prophet, peace be upon him. While praying that clemency can be found for her, much more I pray that her faith may deepen, and that she may face death, if need be, in the same spirit of patient forgiveness as did the blessed Christ, whose name she has taken, who instructed us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Who is sufficient for these things? I pray for her! "Surely the patient will be paid their wages in full without reckoning.” [39:10] In this way her death, not that I wish for it, could prove redemptive and healing to those of both of our faiths whom she leaves behind. This would not prove the superiority of Christianity over Islam, but would demonstrate what is deeply foundational in both faiths, I believe. Please forgive and correct my abysmal ignorance, but did not the Prophet say: “That man is nearest to God, who pardoneth, when he had in his power him who would have injured him.” Those words represent the highest sentiments of Christianity as well, surely. May God forgive us Christians, who have not lived by this wisdom and yet require it of others, and may God heal our world. I'll close with a quote I read on Facebook today: "If only man would talk more with his fellow beings. Our Creator made us with a state of being inclining towards good / piety, known as fitrah. This is in everybody male female black White yellow brown. It has a positive effect of attracting mankind to each other." --Zafar Jahangir
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