International minorities Alliance and South Asian Minorities writer Association Italy demands prosecution of Maulani Yousuf Querashi, Imam Majid Mahabat Khan, Peshawar , Pakhtunkhawa, Maulana Muhammad Salim, Imam Masjid, Ittanwala village, Nankana district, and Editor Nawa-i-Waqt, Majid Nizami.
On Dec. 3 the imam of Peshawar’s oldest mosque, Maluna Yousaf Qureshi, offered a 500,000 rupee (about $5,800) reward to anyone who killed the Asia Bibi if the court failed to execute her.
His comments drew criticism from Latif Afridi, a renowned lawyer and former president of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association. He said the imam’s statement was “a mad person’s words and are contrary to basic human rights.” According to the Pakistan Express Tribune, The lawyer also charged that the remarks constituted an open threat to someone’s life and merited legal action.
However, Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan’s leading Urdu newspaper, also endorsed the call for Bibi’s death. It said her punishment “will be carried out in one manner or the other.”
Extremists cleric’s public incitement to murder sparked some criticism in Pakistani media, but no sign of any law enforcement action or investigation. Article 506 of the Pakistan penal code outlaws “criminal intimidation,” and in cases where death is threatened the standard applicable two-year prison term rises to seven.
On the one hand Mullahs are hell bent on seeing Asia Bibi dead, as you will see in the links to a TV discussion, and on the contrary Sherry Rehman, Pakistan Peoples Party’s lawmaker and President of Jinnah Institute, heroically and rightly said,
“allowing any open incitement to murder in the name of protecting religion must stop right now. The state must retain its monopoly on the use of force, and penalties under the law, no one else. Letting Qureshi flout the justice system is also tantamount to challenging the jurisdiction of the courts, and due notice must immediately taken to penalize such actions.”
International minorities Alliance Italy
PAKISTAN : Muslim leaders who issued decree to kill a Christian lady should be prosecuted
ISSUES: Blasphemy law; judicial prosecution; right to life and religious minority
Name of victim:
Ms. Aasia Bibi, 45, mother of five living in Ittanwali village, Nanka district, Punjab province, Pakistan
Names of alleged perpetrators:
1. Maulani Yousuf Querashi, Imam Majid Mahabat Khan, Peshawar , Khyber Pakhtonn Kha province, Pakistan
2. Maulana Muhammad Salim, Imam Masjid, Ittanwala village, Nankana district, Punjab province, Pakistan
3. Editor, daily Nawa-i-waqt, Lahore, Punjab province, Pakistan
Date of incident: November 1, 2010
Place of incident: Nankana district, Punjab province, Pakistan
We are writing to voice our deep concern regarding death sentence of Aasia, a Christian mother of five, on the charges of blasphemy by a court and the government’s inability to prosecute those elements who are openly announcing their intention to kill her or award cash money for that purpose. Because of lawlessness and state weakness the Muslim extremist groups are finding it easy to kill her extra judicially. From past experience it has been noted that up until now, blasphemy law had not led to an execution of any accused or convicted. But 33 people charged with blasphemy have been killed in prison by guards or in the vicinity of the court.
It is very shocking that mosque leader Mahabat Khan, of Peshawar , has announced a decree calling for the killing of Asia and a reward of Rs 500,000 (00 USD) to be given to the killer. The call for extra judicial killing by an Muslim leader was totally ignored by the state authorities, which shows that there is no rule of law in the country and every person can claim his own law is Islamic law. This amounts to a total collapse of rule of the law and justice system.
Aasia Bibi, 45, a Christian and mother of five, was sentenced to death by a local court in Nankana district, Punjab province, on charges of committing blasphemy. Ms Bibi’s case dates back to June 2009, when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields and a group of Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she should not touch the water bowl. This resulted in exchange of hot words between her and Muslim women against each others’ religious beliefs. Five days after the incident, a local Muslim leader, Qari Salem, jumped into the matter and pressured some people in the area to claim that she committed blasphemy.
When finding no way to get Ms. Bibi to confess, Salem used the loudspeakers of the mosque, as other Muslim leaders usually do in the cases of alleged blasphemy acts, to spread the news of blasphemy and instigate the people of the locality to punish the alleged blasphemer. The people of the locality beat her severely in the presence of her children. The local police came and took her into protective custody, but at the police station the crowd under the leadership of Qari Salem pressured the police to file a charge of blasphemy against her and arrest her for desecrating the last prophet of Islam (peace be upon him).
On November 1, 2010, 16 months after her arrest, the court pronounced a death sentence on charges of committing blasphemy. The judge totally ruled out in his judgment any chance that Aasia was falsely implicated; he said that there were no mitigating circumstances. His comment in his verdict shows that he knew that it was a weak case and that people will oppose his judgment giving a death sentence to a woman in a blasphemy case for the first time in the history of Pakistan . According to the reports, the court relied on the witnesses provided by the Muslim leader of the mosque and Christians were not allowed to produce any witness. The judge also did not know that according to the 2004 amendment to blasphemy law the investigation of any blasphemy charges should be conducted by an officer who is at least a Superintendent of Police (SP). In the case of Aasia, all the investigation was done by a low rank officer, the Assistant Sub-Inspector.
It has been found that Pakistan ’s judges, from the lower courts to the highest courts, are eager to get popularity through their verdicts and comments during the hearing. When the chief justice of the Lahore High Court stopped the government from withdrawing the case of blasphemy against Aasia on the assumption that president of Pakistan would withdraw the case, Ms. Asma Jehangir, the president of Supreme Court Bar Association told the judges that if they want to get popularity through their judgment then they should do some other job rather than being a judge. The judiciary’s attitude towards the blasphemy law is no different than that of ordinary Muslim leaders. When the Chief Justice implored the government not to pardon the sentence, another bench of the same court also asked the government not to amend the blasphemy law.
It is also evident that those persons responsible for extra-judicial killings of persons accused of blasphemy will never be punished by the courts because of the biases of the courts and because of the lengthy period of trial during which witnesses were pressured by the militant groups.
A prominent Muslim leader, Maulana Yousef Qureshi, a hard line Pakistani Islamic cleric, told a rally in the north-western town of Peshawar that his mosque would give Rs. 0.5 million approximatively (5,000 US dollars) to anyone who kills Aasia Bibi. The Maulana is the leader of Mosque Mahabat Khan, the biggest in the Khyber Pakhtoon Kha province. His announcement was carried by all electronic and print media, yet the government has not taken any legal action against Maulana for inciting people to kill extra judicially. Muslim religious groups all over the Pakistan are holding protest meetings in large numbers, instructing followers that there should be no compromise if the government or courts pardon Aasia’s death sentence.
The Governor of the Punjab Salman Taseer, who met Aasia in jail after her sentence and assured her that he would take her case before the president of Pakistan , advocating to pardon her. However, the Lahore high court suddenly stopped the process and said before the decision of the court that the government cannot do such a thing. All the religious groups and parties maligned the Governor as he is violating the basic teachings of Islam.
Ms. Bibi’s husband and children are hiding. They left the house after receiving threats from the Muslim extremists. It is difficult for them to survive, as the husband and his other brothers are always chased by Muslim groups. There is a strong chance that her family would be attacked and might be killed as these happened in previous cases when persons were accused of blasphemy. In a recent case of two Christian brothers, the AHRC informed the authorities of the threat well before those brothers were killed in custody.
In another case dating from July 2009, a Christian youth was killed by extremists in November2010 after being released from charges of blasphemy.
One daily newspaper, Nawa-i-Waqt has written an editorial in favour of Maulana Yousuf Querashi, who issued a decree against Aasia Bibi and announced a cash reward for whomever kills Aasia Bibi. The newspaper wrote that Maulana was great in his decree and his action is according to Islam therefore Aasia Bibi should be killed.
The speaker and legislators of the provincial Assembly of Punjab province who support the move against Aasia Bibi are no better. When Mr. Shara, a minority member of the assembly, wanted to discuss the issue of Aasia and her punishment, the speaker, Rani Iqbal Ahmad, refused to allow Shara to speak on the issue, describing it as “sensitive”. Protesting against the speaker’s attitude, legislators belonging to minority communities walked out of the House. However, when Ali Haider Noor Niazi of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan party began speaking emotionally on the same issue, the speaker did not stop him. Niazi began shouting within the assembly as he criticised those who were trying to defend the woman. Niazi criticised Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer for raising his voice in favour of Asia Bibi. “The governor has no right to make efforts for Asia ‘s pardon,” he said. Niazi was also of the view that those demanding the woman’s release are blasphemers.
It is very much feared that Aasia Bibi or her family members may be killed during her detention or when she is released. The Punjab government is silent on the issue and allowing fundamentalist groups to decide all things.
* We urge the government to take strong action against the fundamentalist Muslim leaders who take the law in their own hands in the name of Islam and want to rule the country with their extremist designs and misuse the blasphemy law.
* We urge you to immediately repeal the black law, the blasphemy law, or at least delete section 295C from the Pakistan Penal Code, release Aasia Bibi and provide protection to her and her family. Also prosecute those who issued decrees ordering the killing of Aasia Bibi.
* We look forward to your prompt action to provide substantial and comprehensive policy responses on the protection of religious minority groups and misuse of blasphemy law.
Jeem Phey Ghauri
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