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Did Pakistan Supreme Court come to the rescue of Blasphemy Law victim Asia Bibi?

Asia Bibi was brutally beaten after drinking water from a well, which was specifically for the use of Muslims in the highly discriminatory nation- Pakistan

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Aasiya Noreen, better known as Asia Bibi. Wikimedia

August 26, 2016: Pakistani Christians have expressed great joy and fear on news that Aasiya Noreen, better known as 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, which was specifically for the use of Muslims in the highly discriminatory nation- Pakistan. Her mistake was 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 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 at 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 been incarcerated since June 2009 followed by a death sentence, that was announced in November 2010.

After a failed appeal to the Lahore High Court on October 16, 2014, many thought freedom was beyond Asia Bibi. However, in a pre-trial hearing at Pakistan’s supreme court on July 22, 2015; the court has suspended her death sentence and permitted an appeal. In her appeal, Asia will ask the court to reconsider deficiencies in the case, which included poor investigation and manipulation of pieces of evidence by the local police.

The appeal was originally meant to take place 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, who assassinated Salmaan Taseer, a former Governor of Punjab for his stance of calling for the abrogation of draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan and freedom for Asia Bibi. In the wake of Qadri’s death- a wave of protests included 100,000 Muslims, who gathered outside the Government buildings in Islamabad and demanded the termination of proposed reforms of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and death sentence for Asia Bibi. The government caved in on the reforms which had passed through Parliament and were to be ratified by 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.

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 fear, 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 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 believes 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 the 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 among a population that has 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.

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.

BPCA continue their appeal to support the Asia Bibi and her family. If you would like to donate towards our appeal please (click here). 

Please sign and share our petition (click here)

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Indian Parliament Imposes Ban on E-Cigarettes

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products

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E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. Pixabay

Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of E-Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote.

The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha for replacing the ordinance promulgated last September.

Replying to members on the Bill, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged them to pass the legislation unanimously in the larger interest of the children.

“There is evidence now that e-cigarettes are very harmful. They can become a bigger menace than tobacco one day. So, the intention of the government has been to nip the problem in the bud itself,” the minister said.

While most members in the House supported the ban on e-cigarettes, some of the MPs wanted to know why conventional cigarettes aren’t banned as they are equally or even more harmful.

Many opposition members also expressed reservation over bringing the ordinance and introducing the Bill without sending the same to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

On why all tobacco products are not being banned, Harsh Vardhan said that he would be the happiest person if that happens.

“You see, in a country as vast as India, once a particular product has a very big consumer base and social acceptance, it is in fact very, very difficult to ban it,” the minister said.

On the reasons for bringing the ordinance, the minister said that apart from other things, some of the big tobacco companies changed their names and started making plans to enter India.

E-Cigarettes
Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote. Wikimedia Commons

“They had made full preparations. There was an announced entry of a company called Juul, one of the leading global manufacturers of e-cigarettes, in December 2019. It was probably one of the most imminent concerns that worried all of us,” he said.

Participating in the discussions, Trinamool Congress leader Santanu Sen argued for banning all tobacco products as all of them were harmful to human health.

“Of course, by this Bill we are preventing a person from committing suicide by jumping from the fifth floor, but we are also keeping the more affordable and accessible 10th floor wide open to jump from,” Sen said to highlight the serious health concerns posed by conventional cigarettes.

The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic.

“Smoking increases coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times. It increases stroke by 2 to 4 times. It increases lung cancer by 25 times and it increases the probability of COPDA (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) by 13 times,” the Trinamool leader said.

Congress MP B.K. Hariprasad said that he did not support e-cigarettes but opposed the way the Bill had been brought. He also suspected the intention of the government behind bringing the ordinance and subsequently the Bill hurriedly.

“People are smelling a rat in the way this Bill has been brought hastily,” Hariprasad said while making a case for banning all tobacco products as all of them were equally harmful.

He said the government should not succumb to tobacco lobbyists.

Senior CPI leader Binoy Viswam also raised questions around the manner in which the bill had been introduced as no survey or study was carried out before bringing the legislation.

Replying to members on the Bill, Harsh Vardhan said that all his life he had fought against tobacco lobbyists and therefore members should not have any suspicion on his intention.

Congress MP Rajeev Gowda said that the ban has to be a last resort rather than the first resort which is what has been the practice in this particular context.

“A ban or prohibition, as we have seen everywhere, results in underground activities. It results in criminalisation of the society. It results in the creation of a mafia that deals with the underground activity,” Gowda said while participating in the discussions on the bill.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. This also includes all forms of electronic nicotine as well as non-nicotine delivery devices such as e-hookahs and heat-not-burn products.

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products.

“Any comparison about their adverse health impacts with tobacco is misplaced. There is also no conclusive evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. On the other hand, there is definitely an emerging evidence all over the world that e-cigarettes have significantly harmful effects on health,” the minister said.

E-Cigarettes
The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that Apart From E-Cigarettes, a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic. Pixabay

Highlighting the harmful effects of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes, the minister said that nicotine sulfate was once approved to be used as a pesticide by the agriculture department.

“Recently, even that approval has been withdrawn considering its toxicity. Therefore, it is a chemical that is not even fit to be used as a pesticide. That is the latest about nicotine.

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“It is the most addictive substance currently known in the world and is even more addictive than heroin. There is currently no known treatment for nicotine-addiction anywhere in the world,” Harsh Vardhan said. (IANS)