London: August 23, 2016. (PCP) Pakistani Christians have expressed great joy and fear on news that Asia Bibi, Pakistan's most famous blasphemy law victim will finally have her long awaited Supreme Court appeal heard during the second week of October.
Asia Bibi was brutally beaten after drinking water from a well that was specifically for the use of Muslims in in highly discriminatory Pakistan. Her mistake had been to offer water from the same well to Muslim co-workers who started to beat Asia, whilst cursing her and her faith. Asia could not take the insults made against Jesus her Lord, so she simply said 'My Christ died for me what did Muhammed do for you?" The male co-workers were told about this and Asia Bibi was gang-raped for her alleged crime of blasphemy, she was beaten to her home where her children were later sexually molested. For her crime of blasphemy which was induced by the demand of a local Imam, she was imprisoned under Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws. She has now been incarcerated since June 2009 and has been sentenced to death since November 2010.
Asia Bibi, has always upheld that she will be set free by God's grace even when it has seemed like there was no chance. After afailed appeal at the Lahore High Court on 16th October 2014, many thought freedom was beyond Asia Bibi. However, in a pre-trial hearing at Pakistan's supreme court on 22nd July 2015, the court suspended her death sentence permitting an appeal. In her appeal Asia will ask the court to reconsider deficiencies in the case which include poor investigation and manipulated evidence by the local police.
The appeal was originally meant to have been held on March 26 2016, however after the judiciary and Government of Pakistan decided to push through with the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri under anti terrorism laws they were forced to postpone Asia Bibi's appeal hearing. Mumtaz Qadri had assassinated Salmaan Taseer who was a former Governor of Punjab for his stance calling for abrogation of the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan and freedom for Asia Bibi. In the wake of Mr Qadri's death a wave of protests, including 100,000 Muslims encamped during a sit in process outside Government buildings in Islamabad, demanded termination of proposed reforms of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and death for Asia Bibi. The government caved in on the reforms which had passed through Parliament and were to be ratified in the Senate of Pakistan. Many Christians at this point thought Asia Bibi's luck had run out and that the government had failed her and other minorities - especially when they postponed her case due to the scale of social schism.
However, news of the revised date for the appeal hearing has induced mixed feelings. Many Pakistani Christians believe the date will be postponed again when the Muslim protests for Asia Bibi's death reassume, they still recall the 5 postponements before Asia Bibi had her Lahore High Court Appeal rejected. Moreover, despite their joy and delight that Asia Bibi will have her day in court and a chance for justice, they fear that a community backlash will result in attacks on the innocent Christian communities across the country. Despite their fears every Pakistani Christian stands with Asia Bibi and is praying for her release.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said: "Asia Bibi has suffered the Injustice of five years imprisonment for a made up crime. A cultural faux pas and innocuous comment made while being attacked, led to her being raped her children sexually molested and her arrest under the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan for good measure.
'As a devout Christian she continues to believe God will free her from her ignominious incarceration. She prays daily and has placed her life and her family before God."
"I have spoken to Pakistani government officials and the judiciary. All I have spoken to are shocked at the ongoing abuse of her liberty. Yet her tragedy continues and I have come to the conclusion that all I have been receiving is diplomatic lip service, devoid of passion for justice."
"Her story is one of oppression and discrimination and despite international pressure, statutory authorities and the Government of Pakistan have failed her, just as they have failed all minorities in Pakistan."
He added: "Freedom for Asia Bibi would be a a watershed moment in the campaign for justice and freedom for minorities. Previous governments have failed miserably, but I believe the incumbent Government is genuinely attempting to return the balance. I hope that effective protection is provided to Asia and her family, the judiciary and all persons that could make this latest appeal a success. Any half-hearted approach will undermine Asia's trial and create a blight on Pakistan's reputation."
BPCA believe there will be a large mob of Muslims baying for the blood of Asia Bibi outside the courts. We are calling on the Government to ensure that known ring-leaders are rounded up and prosecuted under the countries incitement to hatred laws.
If these extremist elements are allowed to foment violence against any innocent people then it is the government and security forces that should be implicated for their failure to provide adequate protection. This case will create schism and polarization amongst a population that have been inculcated with hatred, through a biased national curriculum. We pray that any ensuing infraction is controlled and curbed by security forces and that innocent Christian communities are protected during a time when their pariah status is set to reach epic levels.