Pakistan: Christians insist on human rights despite Islamist threats:

Thursday, November 25, 2010 by Speroforum

“If the President grants her the pardon, Asia Bibi will be discharged but her life will be in extreme danger. Radical Islamic leaders state that if someone who is guilty of blasphemy has been released that they will take their own justice. Anyone may kill her to defend the name of the Prophet, thus attaining the promise of paradise,” according to Tahira Abdullah, Pakistani Muslim and human rights activist. Abdullah is a member of a civil society forum that brings together Muslim and Christian organizations committed to human rights.

On November 25, Pakistani Minister for Minorities Bhatti presented to President Ali Zardari his report on Asia Bibi – A Christian woman condemned to death under Islamic religious law for allegedly defaming the founder of Islam, Mohammed.

According to FIDES news service, Tahira Abdullah explained “We are in favour of the success of Asia Bibi’s appeal process in the High Court of Lahore. I think it was a mistake to induce her to ask for clemency, while the case is still before the judge: this means an implicit admission of guilt. But Asia Bibi is innocent, has not committed any crime, nor any sin against the Prophet and against the Koran. I have full confidence in the justice of the High Court and also of the Supreme Court. So I think we should hold a new trial: to definitively and unequivocally establish her innocence.””

“If she is granted a pardon, we strongly urge the government to safeguard her life,” Abdullah remarked. In Articles 295b and 295c of the Penal Code of Pakistan, which constitute the so-called anti-blasphemy law, the activist said “Articles 295b and 295c of the Penal Code were promulgated by the dictatorial regime of General Zia, not voted on by the people. No Parliament has ever voted and approved them. They are thus de facto laws that are to be urgently removed. We advocate, instead, to keep articles 295 and 295a that safeguard blasphemy against all religions.””

At this stage the voices of Islamic extremists are getting stronger and stronger: in an unprecedented move, religious Islamic schools of distinct thought, the ‘Deobandi’ and ‘Barelvi’, have issued a joint statement in which they warn President Ali Zardari of conceding a pardon, because of external pressures, “to a woman guilty of blasphemy.” This decision, warn the radical leaders, “will have unforeseeable consequences,” announcing protests and public reaction across the country. The same view was expressed by the Conference of the Jamiat Ulema of Pakistan (JUP), representing more than 30 religious parties and radical Islamic organization Tahafuz Namoos-e-Risalat Mahaz (TNRM).

Meanwhile, local sources tell the story of a Christian shot dead in recent days in Punjab, in the Narowal district, north of Lahore: the 22 year old Latif Masih was gunned down by two assassins, “probably for being accused of desecrating the Koran,” local police said.

Francis Mehboob Sada, director of the Christian Study Centre in Rawalpindi, engaged in the defence of religious minorities, commented “We do not fear threats from fundamentalist groups. We will continue our struggle for civility. We are comforted by the support of moderate and enlightened people of Muslim civil society, at political, civil and legal levels.””

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