Stories about Aasia Bibi

Rimsha Masih: Another victim we failed to protect

Eight months ago, Rimsha Masih innocently told reporters: “I love Pakistan. I won’t ever leave my country.” Little did she know that after being accused of a crime she did not commit, under laws that were inherently in favour of her accuser, she will be forced to flee the country she held dear, despite how little it offered to non-Muslims like her. Today, Rimsha and her family have been forced to seek asylum in Canada. Rimsha was accused of burning pages of the Holy Quran by her neighbour, Khalid Jadoon in August 2012. She was detained in a maximum security prison for several ...

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Pakistan doesn’t deserve its Christian community

The year 2009 saw a series of attacks on the Christian community in Gojra that left eight dead and many vulnerable and scared for their lives. 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by an angry mob and the police watched despite the residents begging for protection. Again this week, an angry mob around 3,000 strong attacked a Christian community in search of a particular blasphemer, Sawan Manish who, was already captured and in custody since Friday. These young men – again not surprisingly – in front of the police expressed their rage and caused hundreds of Christians pain they never thought they could ...

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Salmaan Taseer in Kafka’s Pakistan

“One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin.” Thus begins Franz Kafka’s novella masterpiece Metamorphosis. The novel inhabits the familiar bizarre frame of Kafka’s work, of a world where the transformation of Gregor Samsa into a giant insect-like creature elicits hardly any surprise from Samsa’s family and associates, or indeed from Samsa himself. Samsa spends no time pondering his metamorphosis, why it may have occurred or how the process may be reversed. He busies himself instead with mundane concerns, and immediately upon his transformation spends an inordinate amount of ...

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Do we remember what Taseer was fighting for?

International newspapers were ruthlessly generous to Pakistan this past year in granting the country front page features time and time again. Coverage included the Raymond Davis incident, the Memogate scandal, a ‘bold’ Veena Malik, devastating floods, and everyone’s favourite, Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. However, exactly one year ago, Pakistan stole headlines for a reason that has largely been buried; Salmaan Taseer’s assassination over the criticism of the blasphemy law. On January 4, 2011, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, one of Taseer’s security guards, emptied over 20 bullets into the body of the man he was meant to protect. Taseer’s death was both ...

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A long wait for Aasia Bibi

She has already suffered a lot but it looks like a longer, more painful and tiresome journey lies ahead for her. Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sent to the gallows by a district court in central Punjab last year for committing blasphemy, will have to wait for several years before the Lahore High Court (LHC) takes up her application, seeking review of the lower judiciary’s verdict. Lawyers associated with the case have indicated that it is unlikely that the LHC would take up any time soon the review petition in arguably the most ‘controversial’ case in the country’s recent legal ...

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We do not deserve Shahbaz Bhatti

Minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti has been brutally gunned down today –  joining the list of many to have been killed.Voices of sanity do not do well here in Pakistan. Just when you start thinking things will be okay, that now the maniacs have safely put away Aasia Bibi and they’ve killed Salmaan Taseer so maybe that’s enough to make their point – you are jolted into the reality that is Pakistan. You understand completely and fully, even if you did not that morning when reading the opinions page of The Express Tribune, why George Fulton is leaving. Today’s breaking news ...

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Should Taseer’s death be in vain?

I would be lying if I said I’m shocked by Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination. Ever since he announced support for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death over blasphemy allegations, religious zealots had been calling for his head, on the streets, on Facebook groups and in fiery Friday sermons. Of course, no one took that seriously. His own political party deserted him when Prime Minister Gilani, shamelessly playing to the religious right to save the coalition government and his seat, vehemently claimed he would never even think of amending the blasphemy laws. One would expect the prime minister ...

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Minorities in Pakistan: Living a marginalised reality

I’ve found the reaction to Pakistan’s current blasphemy laws surprising. Not because I think the whole Aasia Bibi (and more recently Naushad Valiyani) issue has been blown out of proportion but because of how long it has taken Pakistan to acknowledge the malicious nature of the blasphemy laws. I feel that our nation’s reaction is luke warm – one that has flourished just so most of us can sleep at night feeling good about ourselves as genuine ‘online philanthropists’. These blasphemy laws have existed in Pakistan as long as I can remember. They are a product of what General Ziaul Haq and ...

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Aasia Bibi: A question of religious freedom

The recent case of Aasia Bibi once again thrust Pakistan into the international stage for it’s appalling record of human rights. But though many commentators have called for the repeal of the blasphemy law, I feel we are missing the bigger picture. Calling for piecemeal legal reforms is a necessary part of incremental, pragmatic and gradualist change (tadarruj as it’s know in the classical Islamic legal traditions). However, the greater point about this case is the issue of religious freedom. It is a question of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. On another level it is to do with ...

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Blasphemy law: An apparatus to sustain tyranny

In Pakistan, if you have a land dispute, political rivalry, or just personal or professional jealousy or economic rivalry with someone and you are bent on settling your score, then teaching them a lesson is easier than you think. You can make your enemies regret every day they have ever lived, especially if they are non-Muslims, Ahmadis, Zionists or “Hindu Zionists”. Although in Pakistan it may seem convenient to hire an assassin or kill them yourself – but why do things ‘illegally’ when you can destroy their lives ‘legally’ with popular support? All it takes is a false accusation of blasphemy ...

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