Christmas in jail for Asia Bibi, as Khawaja Sharif bars govt from amending blasphemy law

by admin

Asia Bibi's daughters have learned sadly about the trial's postponement and are preparing to celebrate Christmas without mother.

Related Articles: Nawaz Sharif’s sectarian poodle in Lahore High Court stays Aasia bibi’s release

LHC overstepped in barring Zardari from pardoning blasphemy-accused Christian: HRW

Chief Justice Justice Khwaja Sharif of the Lahore High Court barred the government from introducing any change in the blasphemy law in response to a petition filed by a man named Muhammad Nasir.

Khawaj Sharif issued a notice asking the government to clarify its position on the issue at the next hearing scheduled for December 23.

In his petition, Nasir asked the court to stop the federal government from making any change in the law.

The Chief Justice said the government should not take any step till the court gives its verdict on the petition.

This statement is an obvious interference by the judiciary on the prerogative of Parliament and the Government, who hold legislative and executive power: lawyers, politicians, and representatives from civil society have commented on the High Court’s.

The Lahore High Court’s order to bar President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning Aasia Bibi, contravenes Pakistan’s constitution and should be withdrawn immediately, an international human rights organisation Watch already has said.
Legal experts are calling it “unacceptable, just a sign of confusion of conflict of powers. The Court can not in any way affect the role of Parliament or the Government.”

According to the various international organizations now it’s evident clear that the case of Asia Bibi is being politicised, and, on one hand, there are attempts to insert it into political or tactical disputes, and on the other is a gross act of exploitation  radical Islamic groups.

In fact, yesterday in Islamabad, the radical activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) protested before Parliament, asking the Government to deal with the “real problems of the country”, citing inflation and “the submissive rapport with the United States”, and asking to give up the revision of the blasphemy law.

Meanwhile the work of the Commission appointed by President Zardari to revise the law is about to begin and, as authoritative sources in the Pakistani government reveal to Fides, “the Commission expects to deliver an outcome and a proposal for revision within three months.”

A prominent law maker of Pakistan People’s Party Sherry Rehman has introduced a private bill in parliament to change the law.

Asia Bibi’s family has learned sadly about the trial’s postponement and is preparing to celebrate Christmas without Asia.

“It will be a Christmas in which all the Christians of Pakistan remember and pray for Asia and her family. While the politicians plays their games, there is an innocent victim who suffers in prison and children without a mother,”

Haroon Barket Masih told Fides, head of the Masihi Foundation,” which is taking care of the family and providing legal assistance, noting that “the appeal process is expected to last about a year.”

According to official data released today by the press in Pakistan, there are 130 people in prison for blasphemy in different jails in Punjab. Of these, 64 were convicted, while 52 are on trial. Of those convicted, 12 (including Asia Bibi) are sentenced to death while others are serving life imprisonment or other penalties. Only eight of them are Christians, the remaining 122 are Muslims. Of the eight Christians, two are women (Asia Bibi and Riqqiya Bibi, wife of Munir Masih.

Earlier Asma Jahangir, human rights activist and chairperson of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), criticised the courts restraining order.

“The president is yet to grant pardon. So there was no need for such an order,” she said, adding that “the court should not take such populist stance”.

Ms Asma said the court shouldn’t have passed an order over a possible future event.

“A stay order in anticipation of something is unheard of,” Jahangir said. “This was done by the high court to gain popularity.”

A spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari responded to the statement of the Lahore High Court, claiming the prerogative and powers of the President. President Zardari through his spokesman said that the High Court has no jurisdiction over his duties and, under Article 45 of the Constitution, the President may at any time decide to grant a pardon. The Supreme Court of Pakistan, with a statement of “its motion” (ie, of their own initiative) has confirmed this interpretation, noting that only the Supreme Court may give binding instructions to the Government or the President.

ASIA BIBI’S DAUGHTERS WAITING FOR THE EXECUTION OF THEIR MOTHER

The Constitution says as follows:

45. President’s power to grant pardon, etc.

The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.

248. Protection to President, Governor, Minister, etc.

(1) The President, a Governor, the Prime Minister, a Federal Minister, a Minister of State, the Chief Minister and a Provincial Minister shall not he answerable to any court for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions:

Provided that nothing in this clause shall be construed as restricting the right of any person to bring appropriate proceedings against the Federation or a Province.

55-A. Saving for President prerogative:

Nothing in Section fifty-four or Section fifty-five shall derogate from the right of the President to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment:

Provided that such right shall not without the consent of the victim or, as the case may be. of the heirs of the victim, be exercised for any sentence awarded under Chapter XVI.

67. Rules of Procedure, etc.
(1) Subject to the Constitution, a House may make [67] rules for regulating its procedure and the conduct of its business, and shall have power to act notwithstanding any vacancy in the membership thereof, and any proceedings in the House shall not be invalid on the ground that some persons who were not entitled to do so sat, voted or otherwise took part in the proceedings.
(2) Until rules are made under clause (1), the procedure and conduct of business in a House shall be regulated by the rules of procedure made by the President.

68. Restriction on discussion in Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).

No discussion shall take place in [68] [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] with respect to the conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties.

69. Courts not to inquire into proceedings of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).

(1) The validity of any proceedings in [68] [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] shall not be called in question on the ground of any irregularity of procedure.
(2) No officer or member of [68] [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] in whom powers are vested by or under the Constitution for regulating procedure or the conduct of business, or for maintaining order in [68] [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)], shall be subject to the jurisdiction of any court in respect of the exercise by him of those powers.

(3) In this Article, [68] [Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] has the same meaning as in Article 66.

3 Comments to “Christmas in jail for Asia Bibi, as Khawaja Sharif bars govt from amending blasphemy law”

  1. Forever live Justice Khawaja Sharif! He’s the great man for doing this. No compromise on the respect for Holy Prophet(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

  2. ANALYSIS: Pakistan and the dehumanisation of minorities -Ishtiaq Ahmed

    How do we explain that despite several Sufi shrines being targeted by suicide bombers, the Ahle Sunnat ulema are demanding that Aasia Bibi should be executed? How can the Ahle Sunnat ignore that fact that they themselves are on the hit list of extremists who consider them guilty of crimes no less serious than blasphemy?

    Professor Brij Narain was a famous Lahore-born academic whose books on economics were on the required reading list of the curricula of pre-partition universities. Enamoured by Jinnah’s English lifestyle and mannerism and himself strongly secular and idealistic, Brij Narain underestimated the morbid impact of the rabidly anti-Hindu and anti-Sikh rhetoric of the 1945-46 election campaign in Punjab. He developed a strong set of arguments to prove that Pakistan was economically feasible and viable. When partition took place in mid-August 1947 and Lahore was burning, he continued to believe that Hindus like him could be Pakistanis like any other community. A mob arrived at his door and mercilessly killed him notwithstanding his pleas that he supported Pakistan.

    Miss Ralia Ram was a Lahore-born Christian lady who wrote letter after letter to Quaid-e-Azam warning him about Congress machinations. She too believed in the righteousness of Pakistan. Her letters are easily accessible in the several volumes of the Jinnah Papers. Fortunately in 1947, Christians were not a target group. Many Hindus and Muslims saved their lives by faking a Christian identity. Both in Amritsar and in Kasur thousands of Muslim refugees received medical aid from Christian volunteers.

    Even more interesting is the fact that the majority of Punjabi Christians supported the Muslim League’s case for Pakistan before the Punjab Boundary Commission. Their leader, S P Singha, argued that the Christians would rather have a united Punjab, but if Punjab were to be divided they could expect better treatment in Pakistan than in caste-ridden India. The leader of the Anglo-Indians Mr Gibbon informed the Punjab Boundary Commission that the Anglo-Indians were happy to be in Pakistan. They regarded Lahore and West Punjab as their homeland.

    I have already mentioned in an earlier op-ed that the leadership of the Ahmediyya community was deeply worried about persecution in a sectarian Pakistan. However, just before the partition of India it was decided to support the Pakistan movement (Munir Report 1954: 196-7). Thereafter the Ahmedis put all their efforts behind the Muslim League’s campaign. Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, a leading member of the Ahmediyya community, presented the Muslim League case before the Punjab Boundary Commission with sterling competence. The counsel for the Congress Party, Mr Setalvad, could not restrain himself from publicly paying compliments to Zafarullah during the proceedings. In 1947, the Ahmedis were still included in government statistics among Muslims, and that alone had inflated the Muslim percentage of the Gurdaspur district to a bare majority of 51 percent.

    All such stories sound unreal in the light of the Pakistan experience. The Hindus were naturally the first to flee from Pakistan. The next to exit were the Anglo-Indians. The Ahmedis started seeking refuge in the west in the 1980s. Only in Sindh a Hindu minority survived while in the rest of Pakistan mostly the poorest Christians stayed put because they had nowhere to go.

    Ridiculing Sikhs as simpletons is a prejudice that still survives in Pakistani Punjab, but their leaders proved to be the most farsighted in anticipating the type of Pakistan that would emerge. In the second half of May 1947, the Sikh leaders met Jinnah in Delhi. Jinnah and Liaquat had come fully prepared to convince them to support the Pakistan demand. They told the Sikhs to write down whatever they wanted and it would be granted. The charm offensive, however, was too late in the day. Earlier, in March 1947, Sikh villages in the Rawalpindi, Attock and Jhelum districts had borne the brunt of mob attacks at the hands of Muslims. At least 2,000 Sikhs lost their lives.

    No Muslim League leader, including Jinnah, issued a public statement condemning those attacks. I have looked in vain in the two main English-language newspapers of pre-partition Punjab, the Tribune and The Pakistan Times as well as in the Jinnah Papers for any evidence of the condemnation of that outrage. In the event, Hardit Sikh Malik, who acted as the spokesperson for the Sikhs told Jinnah that they could not risk their future on his promises; the day he is gone things would change. He was right.

    I have always held the view that the anti-minority stance took birth at the time of the 1945-46-election campaign in the Muslim-majority provinces of north-western India. Once it was born, it assumed a life of its own. Only someone totally naive can believe that Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech was a magic mantra that could suffice to make it vanish. Already in early 1951, the ulema of all Sunni sub-sects — including the Barelvis — and the Ithna Ashari Shias had signed the 22-point Islamist agenda for an Islamic state prepared by Maulana Maududi. Gradually that agenda encroached on the constitutional and legal machinery, culminating in the Islamisation measures of General Ziaul Haq.

    The mindset that such measures generated percolated all sections of society, with a few honourable exceptions. In the current situation, while President Zardari and Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer are willing to spare the life of the Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who most certainly has been wrongly framed on charges of blasphemy, federal Law Minister Babar Awan has made theatrical pronouncements in support of the draconian Blasphemy Law, thus undermining his own government. The legal fraternity remains badly divided. While the Lahore High Court has issued a stay order against the reprieve granted by the president, the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Ms Asma Jahangir has boldly criticised that decision. The confusion is absolute.

    How do we explain that despite several Sufi shrines being targeted by suicide bombers the Ahle Sunnat ulema are demanding that Aasia Bibi should be executed? How can the Ahle Sunnat ignore that fact that they themselves are on the hit list of extremists who consider them guilty of crimes no less serious than blasphemy? The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is considered a ‘democratic, parliamentary’ party by some western academics. I have seen with my own eyes a doctoral thesis passed by the reputable Gothenburg University of Sweden in support of JI’s democratic credentials. Its leader, Syed Munnawar Hassan, has also demanded that Aasia Bibi should be put to death. That is the type of democracy the JI actually represents.

    Can one seriously believe that all these people who are crying for the blood of a poor Christian woman are doing this for their love for Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)? Perhaps, but what a love!

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010127story_7-12-2010_pg3_2

  3. Aasia Bibi and Impurities in the Land of the Pure

    – by Manzer Munir

    The case of Aasia Noreen aka Aasia Bibi illustrates how far Pakistan has to go to secure freedoms for its religious minorities. Christians and Hindus are not the only minorities who are persecuted for their beliefs but it is also Muslim minorities such as the Ismailis, Ahmadis, and Shiites who are routinely harassed, discriminated and also killed. Sadly, it is the case of Aasia Bibi that has brought some much needed attention to Pakistan’s sad state of affairs towards the treatment of its religious minorities. Several sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Code consist of its blasphemy laws and of all the Muslim countries of the world that have anti-blasphemy laws, Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws are by far the strictest. There is section 295 that forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object. Then there is section 295-A that “forbids outraging religious feelings.” There is also 295-B which prohibits defiling the Qu’ran and was originally punishable by life imprisonment but has since been amended to up to three years imprisonment. No section of the blasphemy law is more controversial or harder to prove than Article 295-C, the law that Aasia Bibi is allegedly charged with having broken. In respect to prophet Muhammad, this statute states that ” Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to a fine.” Aasia’s case and charges against her started almost a year and a half ago when there was a quarrel over a bowl of water in a dusty village in the heart of Pakistan’s Punjab province. A group of women were working the fields in the heat of the Pakistani sun when one of them, Aasia Bibi, dipped her glass in the communal bucket of drinking water to fetch herself and others a glass of water to drink and immediately was rebuffed by the other women who claimed that the water was now unclean as it had been touched by a non-Muslim. According to witnesses, instead of quietly bowing her head and taking the indignities, Aasia’s crime was that she mounted a strong defense of her faith and remained steadfast in her demeanor that she did nothing wrong. Too often in Pakistan, the blasphemy laws are used against religious minorities to settle personal vendettas and old scores according to Pakistan’s Human Rights Watch, a watchdog group monitoring the case. The news traveled fast in Aasia’s village of Ittan Wali, in Punjab’s Sheikhupura district that a Christian woman had insulted the prophet. The local mullah got on the mosque loudspeakers, urging the “faithful” to take action against Aasia Bibi. In sad but familiar pattern, her defense of her faith was somehow twisted into an accusation of blasphemy, according to her family and others familiar with the case. Soon as a mob gathered outside her home ready to take the law into their own hands and handing out vigilante justice, the police moved in and took her into custody. But instead of protecting her, they charged her with insulting Islam and its prophet under the blasphemy laws. And then on Nov. 8, after suffering 18 months in prison, Aasia Bibi was sentenced to death by a district court, making her the first person to be handed the death penalty in Pakistan under the blasphemy laws. Many before her over the years have been charged, but punishment had been commuted to lesser penalties than the death sentence imposed on Aasia Bibi. No concrete evidence was ever presented against Aasia, according to Pakistan’s Human Rights Watch. Instead, the district judge relied on the testimonies of three other women, all of whom were hostile towards her. Unfortunately this is a common insult hurled at many of Pakistan’s 2 million Muslims who make up just 1.59% of the total population. Often, Christians in Pakistan are discriminated and persecuted and many times only get the lowest of the low jobs such as street sweepers, janitorial and sanitation workers. In fact, in Pakistan, the term ‘Chura‘ has become synonym with the Christian community as it relates to an unclean person akin to how the untouchables or Dalit community is seen in India. In India however, the Dalits are not subjected to arcane state blasphemy laws geared towards religious minorities as in Pakistan or are threatened with their lives at the hands of the Hindu majority. As discussed in a couple of my previous articles, Taliban 1o1, History and Origins and Taliban 201, The Rise of the Pakistani Taliban, the Islamization of Pakistan started under the late General Zia ul Haq of Pakistan who took over the leadership of the country through a military coup in 1977 when he hung the deposed and democratically elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Earlier in 1973, the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan had declared that “Islam shall be the religion of the Pakistan” and had systematically begun the process of restricting the participation of religious minorities in government and politics. Before General Zia, there were only two reported cases of blasphemy. Since the death sentence was inserted in 1986 into the Penal Code for the blasphemy laws, this number has now reached 962 — including 340 members of the Ahmadi Muslim community, 119 Christians, and 14 Hindus. A close examination of the cases reveals the blasphemy laws are often invoked to settle personal scores, or they are used by Islamist extremists as cover to persecute religious minorities, sadly with the help of the state under these laws. General Zia began this policy of Islamization of Pakistan in conjunction with his support for the war against the Russians and assistance to the Afghan Mujahedeen as well as the building of thousands of madrassahs or religious schools across Afghanistan and Pakistan which nurtured the young men into what later became the Taliban. Many of these blasphemy laws fully came into being under his reign, although some were around since as early as more than 100 years prior when the British drew up the Indian Penal Code of 1860 which was initially an ill foreseen aim at keeping the peace among the many fractured faiths of the subcontinent. For instance, section 295-A, which “forbids outraging religious feelings”, could have been applied against a Muslim who insulted a Hindu or a Hindu who taunted a Sikh or Christian or vice versa. However under Zia, the blasphemy laws were expanded and almost exclusively applied against Muslim minorities such as the Ahmadis, Islamilis and Shiites as well as against the Christian and Hindu populations. Recently, a religious ‘leader’ came out and has offered over $6000 to anyone who can kill Aasia Bibi while she awaits her punishment in police custody. Outrage and denunciations on this case are coming from across the world as many people are appalled at the sad state of rights for religious minorities in Pakistan. The Pope has intervened also asking for clemency for Aasia Bibi from Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari. Against all manner of reason and justice, Lahore’s High Court recently issued an order on November 29, 2o1o, preventing Zardari from exercising his constitutional authority to pardon Aasia Bibi. In a country rife with violence and chaos and one that has become synonymous with terror the world over, the case of Aasia Bibi is yet another dark stain on the country’s image around the world. The Taliban and the extremist groups ravaging Pakistan can be explained as being a violent minority and do not and should not reflect on the nation as a whole as the majority of people in Pakistan are opposed to them and their views of Islam. But the blasphemy laws, for as long as they have stayed on the books in Pakistan and in the constitution, cannot and should not be excused in any shape or form. These laws need to be repealed and the constitution needs to be amended in an emergency manner so that Aasia Bibi and other religious minority citizens of Pakistan are not subjected to cruel and subjective laws that are almost exclusively used against m
    inorities to settle scores, personal vendettas, and instill terror in less than 3 percent of the country that is not part of the religious majority of Sunni Muslims. There needs to be international pressure placed on Pakistan from the United Nations, the United States, Europe and others to modify the constitution immediately and to pardon this 45 year old mother of two children. It is ironic that in a country where many people sympathize with Osama’s Al Qaeda and profess to hate the west with one hand, they decry with the other why not enough western aid has came to their country when it recently saw the worst flooding in its history. Can you blame the American citizens, the Europeans or citizens of any other Christian nation from hesitating to give aid to a country that not only plays a duplicitous game when it comes to terrorists and terror havens but also treats Christians and other religious minorities in the manner as in the case of Aasia Bibi? The name Pakistan literally translates into “The Land of the Pure”. And as a child growing up I was told that the meaning of Pakistan’s flag is this: “The green is a traditional Islamic color and the crescent moon and star are also Islamic symbols. The white stripe represents the non-Muslim minority and religious groups of Pakistan and there place in the country.” In my view, as long as the nation sanctions and tolerates these utterly unjust and biased blasphemy laws, the religious minorities of Pakistan clearly have no place in this land of the ‘pure’.

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