Blasphemy accused Pak-Christian woman “innocent”: Minister

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

LAHORE - Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, has said that Aasia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy, is innocent.

“According to my own investigation, it was a personal dispute and she did not commit blasphemy,” the Daily Times quoted Bhatti, as saying.

Bhatti, who said that President Asif Ali Zardari had asked him to investigate the case, expressed his confidence that Zardari would pardon Aasia because she had been falsely accused.

“I will hopefully submit my report to the president on Wednesday and recommend to him to grant pardon to Aasia,” he said. “She is innocent and the case against her is baseless.”

The mother of five has already spent a year and a half in prison.

On November 8, Aasia was sentenced to death by an additional sessions judge in Nankana Sahib district on charges of committing blasphemy under the Pakistan Penal Code. The judge also imposed a fine of 300,000 rupees on her.

The case has drawn huge attention in the media, and there is deep sympathy for Aasia Bibi. Several NGOs have called for repealing the blasphemy law because it was “being used by illiterate masses in rural areas to hoodwink the minorities”.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI had also called for her release, and said that Christians in Pakistan were “often victims of violence and discrimination.”

It is noteworthy that only around three per cent of Pakistan’s population of 167 million is estimated to be non-Muslim. (ANI)

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