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Asia Bibi Still Without ‘Adequate Security,’ Says Report

ICC Note

According to report coming from Pakistan, Asia Bibi has not been provided adequate security. Muslim radicals have threatened to carry out suicide attack on the prison where Asia is kept.

By Xavier Partas William

01/13/2011 Pakistan (ANS)-No extra security measures have been taken to protect the life of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges and whose life is constantly being threatened by militants and extremist religious elements, a report compiled by a provincial intelligence agency said on Wednesday (January 12, 2011).

The report, monitored by ANS, was sent to the agency’s provincial headquarters through its regional office.

The severity of threat to the life of Asia Bibi spiked after the assassination of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, but the provincial government is yet to take effective security measures, ANS has discovered.

Asia Bibi is incarcerated in the women’s barrack in Sheikhupura district jail along with 15 or 16 other detainees.

Just one female warden has been assigned to her inside the jail and five police constables deputed to secure the jail’s perimeter, along with two motorcycle squads assigned to patrol the jail periphery.

The report said that the guards assigned to her “are not vigilant and most of the times they are absent, especially the motorcycle riders”.

Ashiq Masi, Asia Bibi’s husband about to visit her in jail with two of their children
Referring to the many loopholes in Asia Bibi’s security, the intelligence agency pointed out that her husband, Ashiq Masih, is allowed to visit her like “a normal visitor in an ordinary/casual shed, and there are no special security precautions” on ground.

Stressing the need for extra security, the report recommended that Asia Bibi should be sent to the women’s jail in Multan, a city in the Punjab Province of Pakistan and capital of Multan District. It said that there were “better security arrangements which preempts the chance of an attack or any untoward incident”.

Interestingly, the Ministry of Interior had asked the Punjab government to increase security for Asia Bibi in Sheikhupura Jail.

Salman Taseer visits with Asia Bibi in Sheikhupura prison before he was murdered
Following the recent debate in Pakistan about the blasphemy law and the subsequent assassination of late Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer for speaking out against the law, Minorities Minister, Shabhaz Bhatti, a Christian, who first spoke out against the blasphemy law, believes he is “the highest target right now”.

Bhatti told the Pakistan media, “During this Bibi case, I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer… these messages are coming to me even publicly.”

Bhatti and his allies say the law against defamation of the Prophet Mohammed is often used to settle petty disputes, and human rights activists say the act encourages extremism in a nation already besieged by Taliban attacks.

Bhatti said fatwas, or religious decrees had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity.

“The government should register cases against all those using hate speeches,” said Bhatti, who insists he will work as usual despite the threats.

“I’m not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they’re terrorising the country.

“I cannot even trust security…. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can’t save you.”

Sherry Rehman (right) speaking at an event
Former information minister, Sherry Rehman, initiated the current controversy when she introduced a bill in November calling for an end to the death penalty for blasphemy.

“I’m sure everyone at the top is worried about this and concerned about the level of security we all have,” said Rehman, speaking to the media from her heavily-guarded home in Karachi, where 50,000 people rallied on Sunday hailing Qadri as a “hero.”

She said she uses her own private security company instead of public protection, and said they had advised her to stay at home and not to travel to the capital Islamabad.

“I’m not being foolish but I’m going to be rational,” she said. “I don’t plan to turn away… I have put the bill in, it’s not an extreme position like a repeal bill. They (the extremists) can’t decide what we think or speak.”

Country wide rallies have been announced by the by the Islamic extremist groups after the Friday prayers on January, 14, 2011. The Christian Community has been instructed to stay vigilant.