Fears over blasphemy-accused Pak-Christian woman’s safety after Taseer’s assassination

Friday, January 7, 2011

ISLAMABAD - In the wake of liberal politician Salman Taseer’s assassination in Pakistan, human rights workers have expressed fears over the immediate safety of Aasia Bibi, the Pakistani-Christian woman at the heart of the blasphemy furore in the country.

“None of us feel safe, least of all her,” The Guardian quoted Shahzad Kamran, a Christian charity worker who has visited Bibi in jail several times since last November, when she was sentenced to hang for blasphemy, as saying.

A mother of four, Bibi has been sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad, and has been in solitary confinement for the past month.

But after Taseer’s own security guard murdered him because of the governor’s support for her release, Kamran said he feared Bibi could also be killed by a zealot.

“There are many chances. The prison guards could also kill her because they are Muslims and we cannot trust them,” he said.

Kamran said he expected that Bibi’s “heart was broken” at the death of Taseer, her most prominent defender, and that her plight had reverberated across Pakistan’s embattled Christian community.

“Taseer died for the Christians and now we are feeling broke and scared. If they can kill the governor of Punjab then who am I?” he said.

Since 1990, at least ten Pakistanis have been killed while awaiting trail on blasphemy charges, according to human rights workers.

Mustafa Qadri, who shot Taseer at least 17 times before surrendering, told interrogators that he killed Taseer because the governor wanted to reform the controversial blasphemy laws used to imprison Aasia Bibi and hundreds of other minority Pakistanis. Taseer had called the legislation a “black law”.

Human rights workers fear that the focus on Qadri’s trial will jeopardise Bibi’s chances of a fair appeal hearing at the Lahore high court.

“The debate has gotten very difficult,” said IA Rehman of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission.

“People are afraid of talking about the issue and the debate will affect the minds of the judges, who are themselves very conservative,” he added. (ANI)

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