Picture for representation (Pixabay)
Pakistani national Asia Bibi, who was acquitted two years ago by the country’s Supreme Court, could finally leave for Canada to join her family. Prior to this, she languished in jail for eight years because no judge was willing to challenge the ruling of a Sessions Court that had followed the theocratic state’s blasphemy law.
Asia Bibi, a Christian, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010. The conviction followed a brawl that ensued after she had been dubbed “untouchable” because of her religion. She was accused of insulting Prophet Mohammed, something that calls for police action in Pakistan. A cleric confirmed her charges too.
The “Black Law”, which comes under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), gained its present status after General Zia-ul Haq had added a number of clauses to “Islamicise” it. As per this law, anyone who insults the Prophet by means of words, gestures, or innuendos, will be sentenced to death — typically targeting minority communities.
Going by this logic, the Ahmadis, Christians, and members of the Shia community, all collectively insult the Holy Prophet in one way or the other and must, thus, be prosecuted.
The “insult” by innuendo leaves it upon the judges to decide the severity of the offences and whether something amounts to an innuendo insulting the Prophet in the first place.
The religious minorities in Pakistan have been assaulted for decades, sometimes even with the police on the watch. The media has observed a bias in such cases as have the judges who have often been pressured to pass unfair judgements.
In most cases of the accused getting bail, they have been hunted down and attacked or even killed, establishing a trend of keeping the accused in jail.
For all we know, Asia Bibi could have met with a similar fate had her case not gained such prominence. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws came under heavy attack from people all over the world thereafter. Salman Taseer, the former governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, was killed for openly supporting her.
According to a BBC report
, National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) data revealed that, starting from 1987 (after the amendment), a total of 776 Muslims, 505 Ahmedis, 229 Christians, and 30 were accused of being blasphemous.