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Pakistani female Christian ‘blasphemer’ speaks of her post-arrest ordeal

By Dan Wooding and Sheraz Khurram Khan
02/09/09 JHANG, PAKISTAN (ANS) — A Pakistani Christian female who was accused of blasphemy last year has alleged that she received harsh treatment from jail staff during her imprisonment at the Faisalabad district jail, ANS has learnt.

Ashiyana alias Sandal was sent to the Faisalabad district jail after a blasphemy case was registered against her as well as against her father, Gulsher, aged 55, last year. She is currently being detained in the Jhang district jail. Ashiyana is accused of defiling pages from Quran whereas her father is accused of abetting her in the act of committing sacrilege.

Joseph Francis, the National Director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) and Chief Coordinator of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP), Mr. Sohail Johnson, visited Ashiyana in the Jhang district jail on February 6, 2009.

Unveiling her misery, she told her visitors that she had faced tough time in Faisalabad district jail.

The Christian inmate told the two men that the attitude of the staff members of the Faisalabad district jail towards her was harsh.

“I remained without basic needs,” Ashiyana told the visiting human rights activists. “I was condemned to solitary confinement in a dark cell. The lady superintendent of the Faisalabad district jail was very harsh to me. She heaped insults on me and did not provide me with basic needs.”

Pointing to the alleged apathy and indifference of the jail authorities towards her, the blasphemy-accused went on to tell them: “The jail staff were so merciless that they would not even provide water to me for taking bath.”

She disclosed to her visitors that she fell sick after inhaling dust due to ongoing renovation of the jail. The dust and sand, she told her visitors, gave her a breathing-related problem.

Ashiyana told Mr. Joseph Francis and Mr. Sohail Johnson that she was denied medicine by the jail authorities when she asked for it after becoming ill.

“They instead harassed me,” she told the visiting Christian activists.

Ashiyana was shifted to Jhang district jail a few days ago where she says she is meted out a relatively better treatment.

“I am thankful to God that I am being treated relatively better here than Faisalabad Jail. I am still without warm clothes and blanke t though in this winter season. I am in desperate need of medicine to rid myself from difficulty in breathing. I also need edibles,” Ashiyana confided in her visitors.

The Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) intends to give monthly support to Ashiyana. Mr. Joseph Francis gave some money to Deputy Superintendent of the jail for Ashiyana’s medicines while the SLMP gave her food items. Sohail Johnson, the Chief Coordinator of the ministry also assured Ashyiana of every possible support.

Legal Status

Ashiyana’s post arrest bail was rejected from the court of Additional Session Judge, Faisalabad, Zulifiqar, on December 12, 2008. Trial of the case is pending in the same court. The court has fixed Feb. 16 as the next date of hearing. Gulsher is being kept in District Jail Faisalabad.

Ashiyana and her father do not get any visits from their family members or relatives. The siblings of the female blasphemy-accused are said to be taking refuge with their relatives.

Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan delivered greetings cards sent by the Release International, UK to Ashiyana. The ministry has urged its friends and prayer partners to pray for the early release of Ashiyana and Gulsher.