Date: July 22, 2015
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS – July 22, 2015) -- Asia Bibi, the courageous Christian mother-of-five, has been granted leave to appeal her death sentence by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Lahore, and there is now the possibility that she could walk free – and then face further danger from lynch mobs who would like to kill her.
Naveed Azim who is an officer with the British Pakistan Christian Association, who attended the court hearing, broke the news in a message which said, “The Supreme Court of Pakistan has stayed execution of Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges. The full bench of Supreme Court ordered in today’s (July 22, 2015) hearing issued orders to stop implementation of death sentence till next order.
“I am pleased at this decision. It is obvious that international pressure led to this amazing decision and I thank all people who have called for her freedom. Sister Asia will have to spend more time in jail, but her freedom is now a real possibility and I believe only a matter of time.”
A spokesperson for the BPCA said, “There is still some serious legal process to follow before she can be acquitted, but this action is a serious step in the right direction. Asia is in a much more hopeful position now, but the process will be long and drawn out. Please continue to pray for her. By accepting her appeal, the Court has inferred that there is a possibility for grounds for Asia being exonerated.”
The BPCA has asked Christians around the globe to continue to pray for her freedom and for “justice to be served through the courts, a process which we now believe now has given her the impetus to finally defeat her false blasphemy charge.”
If she is finally freed, she and her family, will probably have to immediately leave Pakistan because of death threats against her, and could finish up in Paris, France, who have offered her a warm welcome.
Ms. Bibi was found guilty of blasphemy in November 2010, and has been imprisoned for five years and is currently on death row. She continues to deny accusations that she insulted the Prophet Muhammad – charges levelled at her by former colleagues.
“Human rights groups say that Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws are frequently misused by extremists, and false charges brought against Christians in order to settle personal scores or to seize property or businesses. Bibi's case made global headlines when two prominent politicians were assassinated after trying to help her,” said Christian Today in the UK.
“The imam who preached hatred towards her through a public tannoy inciting people to hatred and who forced the blasphemy charges to be laid against her; the women who first beat her and insulted her God which she could not bear despite absorbing all personal insults; and the rapists who cruelly tortured and dishonored her have all kept their freedom,” said the BPCA spokesperson.
Chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry said: “The draconian blasphemy law of Pakistan has been condemned globally and is a tool for discrimination, vendettas and hatred. The impunity with which perpetrators of false charges can stir up community hatred, magnified by the intolerance and similar permission for mosques to preach hatred, have created a toxic situation for minorities. They are now fleeing Pakistan in their droves with thousands upon thousands being re-persecuted in South-East Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.”
He added: “People across the globe can now take a deep breath, Our efforts have yielded a modicum of success and our sister although still confined and without full liberty, now knows that her freedom may be achieved. The family will still need our support both financially and in prayer. We must not stop in our challenge for justice and freedom Asia or the millions of other victims suffering in the pariah state of Pakistan.”
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom in May urged the Obama Administration to designate Pakistan a “country of particular concern”.
“The government failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence, and Pakistani authorities have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal actors who incite violence,” the Commission said in its annual report.
Photo caption: Asia Bibi. 2) Dan Wooding
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the author of some 45 books.