A superior court is yet to decide the fate of Asia Bibi (Aasiya), a Christian Pakistani woman who has been sentenced to death by “hanging” for “blasphemy”, by a Pakistani court. The verdict has received worldwide attention. If executed, Bibi would be the first person in Pakistan to be lawfully killed for blasphemy.
Asia’s husband Masih told the press many times that “Asia has been convicted on false charges. We have never, ever insulted the prophet Muhammad or the Quran.” Later on, a case was registered against her under Sections 295-B and C [blaspheming the Quran and Muhammad, respectively] at the Nankana police station on the complaint of Muhammad Salim, the local imam [prayer leader] of the village.
According to the report, in June 2009, there had been a dispute between the beautiful 45-year-old and her colleagues: they are out on the pick box, Falsa, a sweet-sour Asian fruit. Asia Bibi goes home to fetch water. When she comes back, the women refuse to drink it. She should be committed to Islam, only then could they drink the water, they taunt. Otherwise it was “unclean”. Asia Bibi is said to have replied: “Why should Jesus Christ for the sins of the people die on the cross, what did Muhammad do to people?”
Ittanwali, where Asia’s native land, is located in East Pakistan in the province of Punjab. Only three Christian families live here in this small village. It is a poor village, without water and gas, one uses a hand pump at the well, and heats and cooks with wood usually.
However, the police initiated an investigation about her remarks resulting in her arrest and prosecution under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. She spent more than a year in jail. Last month, Naveed Iqbal, judge at the at court of Sheikhupura “Punjab, Pakistan” totally ruled out that there was any false implication” and sentenced her to death by hanging. Additionally, a fine of an equivalent of $1,100 was imposed. As per press information, Bibi admitted before the neighbors and police that she did this and appealed for forgiveness. Now, Bibi’s husband plans to appeal the verdict, which has to be upheld by the Lahore High Court.
The decision has received international attention and has been denounced. The visiting Italian Foreign Minister indicated that he will discuss the matter with Shahbaz Bhatti, head of the Pakistani Ministry of Minorities.