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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
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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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Taliban And The U.S. Set To Meet in UAE

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between U.S. and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to push a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

The special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state, a senior Pakistani official privy to the development confirmed to VOA on Sunday.

The official, requesting anonymity, said Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue after President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a brief statement sent to VOA, has confirmed participation of its political negotiators in Monday’s meeting with American officials, but said that representatives of the host country, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia will also be in attendance.

Imran Khan, Taliban
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018. VOA

Initially, it was Khan who disclosed on Friday that Pakistan-aided talks between U.S. and Taliban officials would take place on December 17, though he would not say where.

The Pakistani prime minister, while speaking in the northwestern city of Peshawar, explained his country has agreed to assist in Afghan peace efforts because Washington has changed its position by requesting help, instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. leaders have previously insisted.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday hailed Khan’s remarks and support for a political reconciliation in the war-ravaged neighboring country.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” the spokesperson told VOA.

“Special Representative Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan,” noted the U.S. embassy official.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

 

In his speech on Friday, Khan said that if peace were achieved in Afghanistan, his country will be the immediate beneficiary in terms of security, economic stability and regional connectivity.

Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks. He is 14 days into an 18-day visit to the region and has already visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.

Since taking office in September, the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, where the insurgent group operates its so-called “political office.”

But those talks have been for the sake of talks, say insurgent and Pakistani officials.

Demands, accusations

Pakistani officials privy to Khalilzad’s interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly blast in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

 

Washington has long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Also Read: U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians, security forces, insurgents and more than 2,400 American soldiers, according to an American University study released recently.

The longest war effort in U.S. history has also cost Washington nearly one trillion dollars. The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities and currently controls or hotly contests about half of Afghanistan. The conflict is said to have killed more Afghan civilians and security forces in 2018 than in any other year. (VOA)