Blasphemy convict Aasia Bibi tortured in jail: Sources

Blasphemy convict Aasia Bibi tortured in jail: Sources

Published: October 12, 2011

The daughters of Asia Bibi with an image of their mother, standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura on November 13, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

LAHORE: Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of committing blasphemy, was allegedly tortured by a staffer of Sheikhupura jail, sources familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune.

Aasia Bibi, who has been the subject of much controversy, has been detained in a special cell in Sheikhupura jail due to severe security threats.

According to sources, the warden of the jail, identified as Khadeeja, “tortured” Aasia Bibi after alleging that certain prohibited items were found in her cell.

They said that other staff members who were present during the incident acted as silent spectators.

Despite having knowledge of the incident, Deputy Superintendent of Sheikhupura Jail Ghafoor Anjum has not taken any action against the staffer who was responsible for the incident. However, Superintendent Sheikh Khalid Pervaiz later suspended Khadeeja, and an inquiry into the incident has been initiated, sources added.

An intelligence agency has also sent a report regarding the incident to its provincial headquarters after recording Aasia Bibi’s statement.

In its report, the agency stated that the episode happened due to the negligence of the jail administration and feared that the matter might go out of hand.

Sentenced to death

In 2010, Aasia Bibi, a resident of Nankana Sahib in Punjab, was sentenced to death by a Sessions Court following an incident in which an altercation took place between her and her co-workers over the issue of fetching water from the fields.

Her lawyer filed an appeal, requesting a pardon from the Office of the President. President Asif Ali Zardari had asked for a review of the facts of the case. However, on November 29, 2010 Khawaja Sharif, the then chief justice of the Lahore High Court, had issued an interim order ruling that while the matter is pending before it, the president could not issue a pardon for Aasia Bibi.

The case has received worldwide attention, with Pope Benedict XVI and leaders from around the world urging that the Christian mother of five be freed.

Family in hiding

In 2010, Aasia Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih along with the couple’s children went into hiding in an undisclosed Christian enclave.

Masih is convinced that his family has been targeted for death at the behest of radical Islamic groups. Asked about the events which gave rise to his wife’s death sentence he said, “She was picking berries with other women when she was sent to get water. One of the women refused to drink the water after my wife dipped her cup into the bucket. This woman said it was contaminated because it was touched by a Christian.”

According to Masih, all the women began taunting his wife and shouting insults against her mother and their children.

Aasia just repeated the same insults back at them, he said. “The name of the holy prophet (PBUH) never came up. Five days later, the local cleric came to our house, followed by an angry mob, and dragged my wife away,” he said, recalling the incident that took place in June 2009. They beat her, ripped off her clothes and accused her of insulting the prophet (PBUH), he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2011.

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