The case of Aasia Bibi


Many in Pakistan know of Aasia Bibi because the former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer stood up for her rights so that she would not be another minority victim of persecution. Aasia is a Christian woman who has been in jail and facing execution since 2010 for blasphemy. She was accused by a local imam of the mosque of her village, who was not present when the alleged blasphemy was committed, over a row with other women concerning a bowl of water. The Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended the execution of Aasia on July 22, 2015 and now it is expected to hear the appeal on October 13, in which Aasia has denied committing any blasphemy and according to her lawyer, Saif al-Malook, her complaint was “registered on personal motives.”
Deplorably, most of the blasphemy cases registered in Pakistan have behind them personal agendas and most of the victims of these accusations are members of minority communities. The death sentence for blasphemy was added by the government of the former military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in 1986. Prior to this, only 14 cases of blasphemy were registered, but from 1986 to 2010 the number of cases reached an estimated 1,274. This shows, more than anything else, that death sentence for blasphemy in and of itself increased accusations, and this can hardly be because of actual increase in instances of blasphemy. Rather, it is glaringly obvious that state-sanctioned death sentence for an accusation that is easy to level and without even an adequate standard of proof gave the opportunity to those who were looking to settle personal scores or act on their bigotry.
It is not just that those who are accused of blasphemy are denied their freedom until the court decides their fate, their lives get endangered the moment they are accused of blasphemy by angry mobs who take it upon themselves to punish them. The most harrowing instance of this supposed vigilantism was in 2014 when a Christian couple was thrown into a brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishan by a group of villagers for allegedly desecrating pages of the Holy Quran.