Washington: South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation (SAMAF) chairman Nadeem Nusrat urged Pakistan’s Supreme Court to drop unfounded blasphemy charges against death row convict Asiya Bibi, and ordered her immediate release.
The Mohajir leader, in a statement, said that for years, Bibi has been kept in prison under charges that clearly lack credibility and mock the norms of justice. She has already suffered enough and there is no reason to keep her in prison, he added.
Nusrat’s statement comes a day after Pakistan’s Supreme Court reserved its judgement on the blasphemy case lodged against Bibi, the only woman in Pakistan to be facing a death penalty for blasphemy.
Bibi, a Christian woman, was allegedly involved in an argument with three Muslim women after they refused to drink from a cup that she had touched, according to Al Jazeera. The three women later claimed that Bibi, in an ensuing argument, insulted Prophet Muhammed, a charge that carries capital punishment in Pakistan. In 2010, a court in Sheikhupura sentenced her to death by hanging. Since then, several appeals against the death sentence have not been able to give Bibi a relief. Last year, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar declined to hear her case.
Meanwhile, the SAMAF chairman, who also heads the Voice of Karachi, added that it is a common knowledge that blasphemy charges in Pakistan are routinely used against the country’s religious minorities and Asiya Bibi’s case is no exception. “In most cases, the real reasons behind blasphemy charges are very different and have nothing to do with the charges levelled against the accused persons,” said Nusrat.
He further added that Pakistan’s own military establishment has been fanning religious extremism in the country for decades, which has not only emboldened religious extremists but also made it “very convenient for anyone to accuse members of religious minorities of blasphemy.”
Such reckless policies of the military establishment, Nusrat said, have created an environment of hatred and intolerance where not just religious minorities, but every peace-loving, secular-minded individual seems to be under threat.
“The killing of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer is just one example of this growing madness where religious and ethnic minorities have become a hostage to religious extremist forces and standing up to them is becoming increasingly dangerous,” he added.
Apart from demanding the release of Bibi, the SAMAF chairman also urged Pakistani lawmakers to amend the current blasphemy laws, stating that the present laws allow religious extremists to conveniently accuse members of religious minorities of unfounded blasphemy charges.