Stories about Aasia Bibi

How India and Pakistan are afflicted by the same madness of religious vigilantism

The issue of cow slaughter and the consumption of beef has been an issue that many orthodox Hindus have found an affront to their religion. Blasphemous speech, in regards to orthodox Muslims and their reverence for the Prophet (pbuh) and Allah (swt), produces a similar sentiment of outrage. This sense of outrage has led to the phenomenon of religious vigilantism. Yet, it seems that this malaise, which was once a rare occurrence in the early history of both India and Pakistan, has transformed and metastasised into a cancer that is permeating the very fabric of each nations’ respective society. Justification through legislation Pakistan In 1986, Pakistan, ...

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The mantle of religious interpretation needs to be taken away from the clergy

I have often been more amazed not at the religious fanaticism of the few, but at passivity of the moderate majority. And although sceptics will cast their doubt, the fact is that Pakistan on the whole has a moderate population. In Pakistan, comparable fervour is dominant only in pockets. Yes, this is a country which has Taliban but it is also a country where people have largely voted for moderate parties. This is a country which despite being conservative has never voted the clergy into power. It has a relatively independent media and entertainment avenues are more eclectic compared to ...

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Sorry Bilawal, Pakistan’s misogyny will always confuse sensitivity with femininity

“Aur tu aur Billo Rani bheebol rahi hai. Asif Zardari sahib, itna haram kamaia aap ne, thora sa Bilawal per lagain aur us ka technical masla theek karain.” (Now even Billo Rani is speaking. Asif Zardari, please devote some of your illegal wealth towards rectifying Bilawal’s technical problem). “Mein ne siyasat mein naheen aana, kyon ke Sheikh Rashid mujhe har roz gandy gandy messages karta hai.” (I don’t want to come into politics because Sheikh Rashid sends me dirty texts every day. The first of the above is an excerpt from Sheikh Rasheed’s speech in 2014, and the latter is one of the Facebook memes I ...

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Will Pakistan be able to #SaveNabeel?

In September, Nabeel Masih, a sixteen-year-old Christian boy was charged under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. His crime was ‘liking’ a post that allegedly ‘defamed and disrespected’ the Kaaba. Over a month later the police have yet to submit an initial investigation report to the courts. This means Nabeel is currently languishing in jail. His family has been forced into hiding and, fearing for their safety, many of his Christian neighbours have fled the area. Fair trials are uncommon in blasphemy law cases. Should Nabeel have a proper and fair day in court he’d likely be found not guilty for two reasons. First, there is ...

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The National Action Plan has been as counter-productive as Pakistan’s blasphemy law

Following the ghastly December 2014 Taliban attack on 132 schoolchildren, Pakistan’s government unanimously passed a National Action Plan (NAP) so that, “No room will be left for the extremism in any part of the country.” Among its 20 points, NAP outlaws radical literature and funding, calls for restructuring in the FATA region and Balochistan to address regional grievances, and lifts the moratorium on the death sentence for convicted terrorists. But well over a year into its execution, NAP has been less effective and more counter-productive than meets the eye. As one of numerous examples, consider the case of 81-year-old optician Abdul Shukoor. This past January, Shukoor, an Ahmadi Muslim, and ...

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How I survived four and a half years in captivity

August 26, 2011, an ordinary day. I was driving to work on the same road in Lahore that I took every day, and my mind was busy with the mundane. A car blocked the road, but I didn’t give it much thought. Then five masked men put a gun to my head, pulled me out of the car and my world spun horribly out of control. Right now, I can’t tell all of the details of my capture or my release for security reasons. Someday I hope to be able to recount the full story. But I can say for ...

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The hypocrisy of Muslim outrage in Pakistan

I’m sure everyone remembers Ahmed Mohammed, the clock boy. Does everyone also remember the furor it caused in the pious Muslim circles? Sure, it was pretty ridiculous of the authorities to nab him from his school in the US and it was fairly stupid of them to mistake a homemade clock for a bomb but I do remember the self-righteous outrage in the circles that generally wouldn’t do this ‘please share to spread awareness’ kind of thing if the subject was Naveed Rafique.  Who is Naveed Rafique you ask? He is a 13-year-old boy from Jaranwala, Punjab. Naveed was a position holder in his ...

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Poor little rich boy

Three days ago, Shaan Taseer, a forty-something scion of one of the wealthiest families in Pakistan trashed a couple of college students half his age, over a school project. The attack was sexist, classist — and public. And, it went downhill from there. Taseer’s delicate sensibilities were initially offended by the students’ small protest-art installation comprising of 25 sanitary napkins taped to a wall inside their school campus. The seven friends, young women and men, hoped to stir a conversation about the body shaming that accompanies the onset of menstruation. Instead, the students, particularly two of the women, were singled out for verbal ...

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Five years on: We still await a verdict on Salmaan Taseer’s battle against blasphemy laws

Any discourse on slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination begins and ends with a trenchant critique of the country’s blasphemy law. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two and dealing with both simultaneously has become an inescapable reality. The close association between the death of a governor and the discriminatory nature of a law remains painfully relevant because it evokes dark memories of violence and bigotry. Taseer’s assassination strikes a raw nerve and reminds the world of an injustice that put the cuffs on a Christian girl who had allegedly passed derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet (PBUH). It also plucks ...

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After five years, will justice finally prevail for Aasia Bibi?

Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced to death approximately five years ago, an incident that added to the miseries of the already-marginalised Christian minority within Pakistan. At the time, very few had the mental capacity to question the Lahore High Court’s verdict to sentence an innocent woman to death, and for those who did, the chickens came home to roost. Salman Taseer paid his price for speaking against the heinous blasphemy law with 27 bullets in his body and blood splattered all across Kohsar Market, with his words drenched in blood, “My resolve is so strong that I do not fear the flames from without, I fear ...

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