“The Christian mother of 5, convicted in sharia court of blasphemy in 2010, remains on death row in Pakistan,” the National Catholic Register reports.
By Anto Akkara
7/20/2012 Pakistan (National Catholic Register) – Amid the growing international campaign demanding release of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five sentenced by a trial court to death for blasphemy, a Church official in Pakistan says the local Church would prefer to maintain a solemn, prayerful vigil.
“We understand the concern behind such international campaigns. But the life of this woman is very important to us, and we will not do anything that would endanger her life,” Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, told the Register July 10 from Lahore.
Father Mani, when asked about the growing international campaign for the release of Bibi — who was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to death by a trial court on Nov. 11, 2010 — said, “Instead of making noises, we would prefer to keep quiet and wait for the high court to hear her appeal.”
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zaradri had dropped the clemency move for the condemned Christian mother after Islamic fundamentalist parties and groups staged massive demonstrations in Pakistan against the move.
The latest campaign for Bibi’s release has come from U.K.-based Christian pop band Ooberfuse, which announced in June a media blitz to raise awareness on the plight of the farmhand who has been in isolated detention in a dingy Sheikhupura prison.
The Free Asia Bibi media-awareness campaign includes the release of a song titled Free Asia Bibi, a music video and an information website. The music video features a disturbing visual portrayal of the squalid prison conditions where Bibi is being held.
“When we were invited to be involved in this project, we knew very little about the life and significance of Asia Bibi. We started reading all of the press accounts of her trial and condemnation to death,” said Hal St. John, a member of Ooberfuse. The band stumbled across Bibi’s biography, Blasphème, written by French journalist Anne Isabelle Tollet, who was based in Pakistan during 2008-2011, states Ooberfuse on its website about the release of the song.
Elaborating on why the Church in Pakistan does not want to scream for Bibi’s release, Father Mani pointed out how two prominent leaders, including Salman Taseer, Muslim governor of Punjab province, have been assassinated in Pakistan for trying to set her free with presidential amnesty.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the 42-year-old Catholic minister for minority affairs in Pakistan’s federal cabinet, was ambushed by unidentified gunmen and pumped with bullets in his car as he was being driven from his residence to his office in Islamabad on March 2, 2011.
An outspoken critic of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law that provides for a death sentence even for unintentional acts of blasphemy, Bhatti himself became a target of Islamic fundamentalists after he initiated a clemency petition for Bibi in November 2010.
Taseer had been assassinated weeks before Bhatti, on Jan. 4, by his own body guard, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who proudly claimed that he killed the governor for daring to call the blasphemy legislation “a black law.”
“The moment one is accused of blasphemy, his life is in danger,” noted Father Mani, referring to the latest mob killing of a person accused of blasphemy on July 4 at Bahawalpur in Punjab province.