Pakistani woman on death row likely to get pardonBy Awais Saleem, IANS
Saturday, November 20, 2010
ISLAMABAD - Blasphemy charges against a Pakistani Christian woman, sentenced to death, were “fabricated”, and she is likely to be pardoned by President Asif Ali Zardari, a senior official said Saturday.
Aasia Bibi was given the death sentence by an additional sessions judge in Nankana Sahib district a week ago on charges of committing blasphemy. A religious leader of the local mosque, Qari Saleem, had lodged an FIR against her for allegedly passing derogatory remarks against the last prophet of Muslims.
Zardari had called for details of the case Friday, following which Punjab Governor Salman Taseer Saturday called on the accused woman in a prison in Sheikhupura city.
“Charges against Aasia Bibi were fabricated. I am taking her mercy petition to the president, and remain hopeful that she’ll be granted pardon,” Taseer said.
“The president has the constitutional authority to overturn death sentences and grant pardon to the accused. We want an enlightened Pakistan where minorities can live without fear,” Taseer said.
Zardari Friday also asked Shahbaz Bhatti, federal minister for minorities, to submit a report within three days.
Aasia Bibi, a mother of four, said she belonged to a poor family and did not know why she was being targeted in this case.
“Although I am a Christian, I can never think of offending the sentiments of any Muslim,” she said in a choked voice.
The case has drawn huge attention from media and human rights organisations in Pakistan and across the world.
S.K. Shahid, the lawyer for the accused, has already challenged the verdict in the Lahore High Court.
The National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP), an NGO working for minority rights in Pakistan, said the proceedings of the case took place under intense pressure and the verdict was likely to be overturned in the high court.
Amnesty International has also appealed for her release.
Blasphemy and death sentence for the accused were included in the Pakistan Penal Code in the 1980s during the regime of then military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq. With the passage of time, there has been increasing perception amongst the intelligentsia that it has done more harm than good.
(Awais Saleem can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)