Following death threats, her security on death row has been ‘beefed up’
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS – April 15, 2016) – Supporters of a Pakistani Islamic group demanded on Friday, April 15, 2016, the immediate execution of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman on death row, and all others convicted under the country’s harsh blasphemy law.
Media reports monitored by ANS, learned that small groups from the Sunni Tehreek party held demonstrations in several Pakistani cities warning the government against any attempt to amend the blasphemy law.
A statement from the party accused the government of seeking to change the blasphemy law to pave way for transforming the country into a secular and liberal state.
Thirsty for blood, the protesters demanded the execution of all those convicted of blasphemy including Asia Bibi, who was convicted in 2010. Her appeal was dismissed by the Lahore High Court in 2014, but the supreme court stayed her execution in 2015 and suspended the high court verdict.
Bibi was originally arrested under the blasphemy law after she had a verbal clash with Muslim women working at a farm harvesting berries in eastern Punjab province. She was accused of insulting the prophet of Islam, a charge she has repeatedly denied.
The situation boiled over when Asia had been asked by her fellow workers to go get them some water, and on the way back, she took a sip from a cup, and when the other women found out, they accused her of “defiling” the water as she was, in their eyes, an “infidel” and then she argued with them. She apparently told them that the person she worshiped, Jesus, was “still alive,” while the one they followed, Mohammed, was dead.
This resulted in her being beaten up, and then charged with blasphemy, a charge she is appealing.
Things got worse, when moderate Muslim Governor Salman Taseer of Punjab and minority minister Shahbaz Bhatti [the only Christian in the country’s cabinet] were murdered in 2011 after speaking in support of Bibi and calling for the reform of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
Street protests escalated when news was released that Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard of Salman Taseer, was executed by hanging on February 29, 2016, for murdering his boss. Crowds rushed onto the streets of many of Pakistan’s main cities to call for the blasphemy laws not to be changed, and then a “shrine” to Qadri was quickly erected on the edge of Islamabad.
Fears began to grow over the security of Ms. Bibi, the first Christian woman in Pakistan sentenced to death for “blasphemy” following the execution of Qadri.
A senior Punjab government official confided to the Pakistan correspondent of Morning Star News (http://morningstarnews.org) that Ms. Bibi’s security had been ‘beefed up’ following intelligence reports that Islamist groups were conspiring to get her killed inside prison to avenge the hanging of Qadri. [Taseer had called the country’s controversial blasphemy statute “a black law” and demanded freedom for the Christian mother of two children and stepmother to three others.]
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to media, the senior government source said that there was already a bounty on Asia Bibi’s head of approximately 50 million rupees (US$$471,000), and that now that Islamist groups were calling for her swift execution, the government was exercising extreme caution to protect her.
“The government is doing its best to keep Asia Bibi safe,” the official said.
Now the Christians are watching and praying to see if the government is able to do just that!
Photo captions: 1) Asia Bibi. 2) Supporters of Mumtaz Qadri take to the streets. 3) Mumtaz Qadri after his arrest. 4) Dan Wooding with his award from the BPCA.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is Mary, My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary (http://marythebook.com). He has received a special award from the British Pakistan Christian Association for his reporting on persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
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