PAKISTAN - CHRISTIAN WOMAN SENTENCED
FOR BLASPHEMY AGAINST ISLAM,
MAY GET PARDON
45, an agricultural worker and mother of five, is the first woman to be
sentenced to death for blasphemy, according to human rights groups.
a political ally of Mr. Zardari, said he believed that Ms. Bibi had been
unfairly treated since she was arrested last year. “I hope the president will
against Ms. Bibi began in the fields of Ittan Wali, a village 60 miles west of
workers declined to touch the water bowl because Ms. Bibi had carried the
container, according to accounts by her husband, Ashiq Masih, and others.
she saw men and women walking towards her with angry gestures,” Mr. Masih, a
laborer, said in a telephone interview.
started beating her and shouting that she had made derogatory remarks against
the Prophet Muhammad,” he said.
dragged Ms. Bibi to a local police station, where she was jailed and charged
with blasphemy, Mr. Masih said. “My wife has not done anything,” he said.
the guilty verdict this month, Judge Naveed Iqbal ruled in a Punjab municipal
court that Ms. Bibi had not been wrongly accused, saying that “the chances of
false implication of the accused are totally ruled out.”
Rights Commission of Pakistan
has documented scores of cases in which men have been harassed for being
Christian or for being members of the Ahmadi sect, a minority group within
Islam, and then accused of blasphemy. The mere fact of being a Christian or an
pressure to the
for Mr. Zardari said the petition from Mr. Taseer had not reached the
president’s office yet.
what to do,” said the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar. “The president will take an
appropriate decision when the mercy petition is received.”
It was also
possible that the Lahore High Court could overturn the ruling in the case,
lawyers familiar with blasphemy cases said.
groups say that more than 20 men have been sentenced to death under the
blasphemy law, most of them Christians. None have been executed.
blasphemy law, a high court must confirm a death sentence from a lower court,
lawyers say. Some of those convicted remain on death row awaiting appeal to the
high court, they say. Some mainstream Muslims have also been charged with
blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission.
Even if Ms.
Bibi is pardoned or the Lahore High Court overturns the sentence, there are
concerns about her safety. Many people acquitted on blasphemy charges continue
to be hounded and are forced to move, change their identity or hide, the
22-year-old man acquitted on blasphemy charges was shot to death last week, two
days after being released from jail. The man, Imran Latif, was charged with
desecrating the Koran.
editorial titled “
denouncing the murder of Mr. Latif, the investigating officer in the case had
said that “no Muslim tolerates a man who commits blasphemous acts,” the
attempts have been made to revise the blasphemy law, including during the
recent military rule of President Pervez
Musharraf. But lawmakers have stalled in the face of strong
opposition from religious parties.
1980s, under the military dictatorship of Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, the blasphemy
law was introduced as part of the Islamization of society.
“This is not
Jinnah’s law,” Mr. Taseer said Monday, referring to the contradiction between
the intention of the nation’s founder and the blasphemy law. “We want Jinnah’s
said the government expected a backlash by Islamic religious leaders and
extremist groups if Ms. Bibi was pardoned. “We are struggling for