PAKISTAN SHOULD BE ON TRIAL: WILL ASIA BIBI GET A NEW DAY IN COURT?
By Lydia Goodman
October 14, 2014
She was working as a farmhand that fateful day in 2009, harvesting berries to help support her family. Sent to get water by the other women she toiled alongside with, her thirst got the better of her. Picking up an old dirty tin cup from the ground, she filled it with water from the well and drank greedily, before returning with water for the other workers. If only she could have predicted that this simple action would cause her to be arrested, imprisoned, and would most likely cost her life, her thirst probably would have disappeared.
Spotted by a neighbor with whom there had been a long running feud over some property damage, an argument developed between the Muslim women and the lone Christian woman from the small isolated Punjab province in Pakistan. They angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink the same water as a Muslim, and some of the other workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian. Her response to the derogatory insults to her faith? "I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?"
By defending her faith, the 35 year-old wife and mother, Asia Bibi, may well be the first woman in Pakistan to be hung by the neck for blasphemy.
In November 2010, a Pakistani district court found Asia Bibi guilty of blasphemy for “insulting the Prophet Mohammed”. The offense is punishable by death or life imprisonment, according to Pakistan's penal code, and Bibi was sentenced to hang. After a high court last week rejected her appeal, her lawyer described the jubilant atmosphere in the courtroom. Shakir said, "Some of them were so overjoyed and happy that they started crying in delight on hearing the decision of the court." Qari Saleem, one of the clerics pursuing the case, told CNN via phone that Bibi deserved the punishment. "I am very happy at the decision of the court, and justice has been done," Saleem said, adding that sweets had been distributed in court after the ruling "out of joy and happiness."
Her lawyer now states that Asia Bibi plans to take her case to the country’s highest court.
Good luck with that.
The Religious Violence Project, an undertaking of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, has tracked publicly-reported attacks against religious communities in Pakistan over the past 30 months. The latest report covers the period from July 2013 to June 2014, during which 122 incidents of sectarian violence resulted in more than 1,200 casualties, including 430 deaths. While the number of attacks are slightly down from the previous year, they remain alarmingly high. The violence had an impact on both Muslim and non-Muslim religious communities, threatening Pakistan’s stability.
These are just a few of the documented cases involving Christian persecution that can be found on the USCIRF fact sheet:
Handery Masieh, a Christian member of the Balochistan party, killed by
his own security guard. (6/14/14)
• A 7-year-old girl raped and denied treatment after receiving threats from the rapist’s family (5/2/2014)
• A Christian man severely beaten and tortured by his landlord (4/27/14)
• Saira, a Christian girl, raped (4/26/14)
• A twenty-two year old Christian man named Haroon killed by a coworker after refusing to convert to Islam (4/18/14)
• A Christian man shot after refusing to convert to Islam (4/17/14)
• Samariya Masih, 16, kidnapped, raped and forcibly married and converted to Islam (2/6/14)
• 14-year-old Christian girl abducted, forcibly converted, married. (1/10/14)
Also documented are numerous cases of atrocities perpetuated by Muslim extremists against the Shi’a, the Ahmadis, the Hindus, the Sikhs, and the Sufis-- all who inhabit Pakistan.
USCIRF chairman Robert George said the United States' commitment to global religious liberty "must be renewed and strengthened."
"With religious freedom abuses occurring daily around the world against people of all faiths and those without religious faith, the United States must by words and deed stand in solidarity with the persecuted," George said in a written release.
Again, good luck with that.
The United States refused to designate Pakistan as a “country of particular concern” even with the implementation of its controversial draconian blasphemy laws. The executive branch may designate “countries of particular concern” (CPCs), which may then be targeted with U.S. sanctions or other measures intended to encourage governments to improve. The 2014 USCIRF report said congressional intent was clear that CPC designations should take place annually but the Obama administration refused to announce any CPC designation for almost 32 months. When it finally did so in September 2011, the administration only designated the eight countries previously listed in 2007.
According to George, “...Pakistan has been arguably the most glaring example of the executive branch’s failure to implement IRFA effectively, in the view of many religious freedom campaigners. The USCIRF has recommended CPC status for Pakistan every year since 2002 – and every year since 2002 the State Department has disregarded the recommendation...”
“Pakistan represents the worst situation in the world for religious freedom for countries not currently designated by the U.S. government as ‘countries of particular concern,’” the new USCIRF report said.
Why would the United States refuse to give Pakistan CPC designation when there is ample proof of religious persecution targeted against people of faith by Muslim extremists? There’s an old adage:
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
America desires Pakistan to be a strong ally in its fight against terrorism and to control extremism in South Asia. There is also the concern about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the question over what would happen if an unfriendly government should gain control of their nuclear weapons.
So, just how do you keep a government friendly? In September 2009, Congress passedand President Obama signed the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, (authored by then Senator John Kerry), which authorized $7.5 billion in aid to the country over a five-year period from 2010 to 2014. The 2009 appropriation tripled the rate of assistance that the U.S. had been sending. Between 2001 and the signing of the Act, America had already generously provided $15 billion to Pakistan to be “our friend”. Simplistic and unrealistic, there’s another old adage that comes to mind:
“With friends like these, who needs enemies?”
In an excerpt of a letter Asia wrote to her family from prison, she says:
“...My children, do you lose courage or faith in Jesus Christ. Better days shall smile upon you and up there, when I am in the arms of the Lord, I will continue to watch over you. But please, I ask the five of you to be prudent, I ask you not to do anything that would offend Muslims or the laws of this country...”
Asia Bibi, Get Me Out Of Here, 201
Pray for Asia.
© 2014 Lydia Goodman - All Rights Reserve
As a writer and commentator, Lydia Goodman is passionate about speaking out against progressive policies that threaten to erode our personal rights, freedoms, and traditions. Lydia has also written numerous articles on world human rights issues, in an effort to focus attention on the atrocities perpetuated against people of faith.