A Living Martyr Released: Part 2
In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.
01/08/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Outside of prison though, Asia’s case gained support both nationally and internationally. Salman Taseer, a Muslim governor of Punjab, and an old friend of ICC, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian and the Federal Minister of Minority Affairs, both advocated on her behalf. Both men denounced her conviction and openly criticized Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Taseer went as far as to file a mercy petition on behalf of Asia, convinced that she would be released with little trouble.
Internationally, human rights groups like ours and Christian leaders around the world spoke out on behalf of Asia. Even Pope Benedict called for her release. Unfortunately, this support did little to quell the rage of Pakistan’s Islamic fanatics.
Governor Taseer was the first to pay for the rage of these fanatics.
On January 4, 2011, he was shot and killed by one of his own elite bodyguards, Malik Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri pumped 20 bullets into him and then immediately surrendered. He said he killed Taseer because of his support for Asia and for his comments against blasphemy laws.
This act made Qadri a national hero and defender of the faith among the fundamentalists. In fact, when Qadri appeared in court on January 9, more than 300 lawyers were there to offer him pro bono representation.
Sensing imminent danger, Shahbaz Bhatti requested greater security measures both nationally and internationally. During a visit to Washington, D.C. in February 2011, Bhatti asked the State Department to help him secure greater protection. ICC’s president, Jeff King, met with Shahbaz on this trip. Sadly, before security arrangements could be settled, he was also assassinated.
With the core of her national support assassinated or silenced by fear, Asia was forced to wait for the Lahore High Court to take up her appeal. After almost four years, the Lahore High Court finally took up her appeal. In October 2014, that court confirmed Asia’s death sentence. According to rumor, Justice Anwar-ul-Haq keeps the pen he signed the order with in his coat pocket as a memento.
Over a dozen Islamic clerics, including Qari Saleem, who brought forward the initial complaint against Asia, were present in the court. “We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today’s verdict, it’s a victory [for] Islam,” Saleem told AFP.
Less than a year later though, in July 2015, hope was restored when Pakistan’s Supreme Court accepted Asia’s petition for a review of her case and suspended her death sentence until the case could be heard.
While this was welcome news, Asia still had to wait more than a year for her appeal to be scheduled. Eventually, the Supreme Court scheduled Asia’s final appeal to be heard in the second week of October 2016.
On October 13, 2016, just a few minutes into the highly anticipated hearing, the court indefinitely adjourned. Many were shocked by this sudden and unexpected development.
While many were frustrated by this shocking return to uncertainty, her attorney remained confident that Asia would someday get justice.
Stay tuned for Part 3, coming tomorrow.
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