Asia Bibi, freed from death row by Pakistan Supreme Court, calls for reform in 'harsh' blasphemy law

Asia Bibi was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws

Press Trust of India September 03, 2019 18:51:04 IST
Asia Bibi, freed from death row by Pakistan Supreme Court, calls for reform in 'harsh' blasphemy law
  • Under Pakistan's penal code, the offence of blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment

  • The 47-year-old mother of four was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours

  • Bibi, a mother of four from Punjab province, was taken out of Pakistan after repeated death threats from religious extremists

Islamabad: Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was freed from death row by the Supreme Court in a high-profile sacrilege case last year that polarised the society, has called for reforms in the country's “harsh” blasphemy law, according to a media report. Bibi was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. Under Pakistan's penal code, the offence of blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Asia Bibi freed from death row by Pakistan Supreme Court calls for reform in harsh blasphemy law

File image of Asia Bibi. Reuters

Bibi, a mother of four from Punjab province, was taken out of Pakistan after repeated death threats from religious extremists, following the quashing of her conviction for blasphemy last year. The 47-year-old mother of four, now in Canada, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but spent most of the eight years in solitary confinement.

Bibi said that it was important for the world to know that there are many cases in Pakistan where people were alleged of blasphemy without any proper investigation or proof, the Sunday Telegraph reported. In her first ever interview after moving to Canada, she thanked the Pakistan Supreme Court and international efforts but said several others trapped in Pakistan also needed fair trails.

“I request the whole world to pay attention to this issue. The way any person is alleged of blasphemy without any proper investigation without any proper proof, that should be noticed. This blasphemy law should be reviewed and there should be proper investigation mechanisms while applying this law. We should not consider anyone sinful for this act without any proof,” Bibi said. Bibi, also known as Asya Noureen, said her wrongful conviction in the case devastated her life.

"My whole life suffered, my children suffered and this had a huge impact on my life," she said in a series of voice messages sent in response to questions from the Telegraph. Bibi was kept at a secret location while arrangements were made for her to leave the country. The Supreme Court's quashing of her sentence on 31 October led to violent protests by religious hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws, while more liberal sections of society urged her release.

The judgment triggered protests across Pakistan led by Islamic political party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups blocking major highways and roads in different parts of the country. Bibi is hoping to move to an undisclosed country in Europe in the coming months, the paper reported. Bibi's case had invited international attention and several countries, including Italy, offered to help her leave the country while the case was being heard by the Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Following the case, the US also asked Pakistan to release more than 40 members of religious minorities facing blasphemy charges and also to appoint an envoy to address the various religious freedom concerns in the country.

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