Pakistan blasphemy Christian still in jail one week on

Thousands of Islamists poured onto the streets in protest after Supreme Court judges overturned Asia Bibi’s conviction. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 November 2018
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Pakistan blasphemy Christian still in jail one week on

  • Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan
  • The case stems from an incident in 2009 when Bibi was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields

ISLAMABAD: One week after the country’s highest court ordered her release, a Pakistani Christian who has spent eight years on death row for blasphemy was still in prison Wednesday, with no immediate prospect of freedom.
Thousands of Islamists poured onto the streets in protest after Supreme Court judges overturned Asia Bibi’s conviction, in a case that has laid bare the divisions between traditionalists and modernizers in the devoutly Muslim nation.
Ultra-conservative Islamists blockaded major cities to demand her immediate execution, in a three-day stand-off that ended when Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration agreed to allow a review of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Critics blasted the climbdown — which came just days after Khan vowed to confront the protesters — as another capitulation to religious conservatives.
The deal has left Bibi in legal limbo — and languishing in jail for a crime of which she has been acquitted.
“Asia Bibi is in Multan jail and has not been released yet. We have not received orders to release her so far,” Zawar Hussain Warraich, minister for prisons in Punjab province, told AFP.
“Normally we receive orders in two days after court judgment and if relatives and lawyers of a prisoner are very active, they can bring it even within a day, but as far as Asia Bibi is concerned, it has not happened yet,” Warraich added.
“Supreme Court should issue a directive to send us her release orders. We will release her as soon as we get it.”
He denied reports that extra security had been laid on for Bibi, saying “she is already well protected by the jail staff.”
An appeal has been filed with the court against Bibi’s release and the party that headed the protests demanding her execution, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, has warned its hard-liners were prepared to take to the streets again.
Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unsubstantiated allegations of insulting Islam can result in death at the hands of mobs.
The case stems from an incident in 2009 when Bibi was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields. Muslim women laborers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim, she should not touch the water bowl, and reportedly a fight erupted.
A local imam then claimed Bibi insulted the Prophet Muhammad — a charge she has consistently denied.
Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih has appealed for Britain or the United States to grant the family asylum, while her lawyer has fled to the Netherlands.
Masih said the delay in releasing his wife, a mother of five, was adding to the family’s agony.
“The daughters are weeping. They still haven’t seen their mother. The family is totally shattered,” he said.


14 dead after fire on two vessels off Crimea coast

Updated 3 min 40 sec ago
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14 dead after fire on two vessels off Crimea coast

MOSCOW: Fourteen people were killed and five were missing off Russia-annexed Crimea in the Black Sea on Monday after a fire engulfed gas tankers sailing under the flag of Tanzania, authorities said.
“There are 11 bodies,” Alexei Kravchenko, spokesman for Russia’s Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport, told AFP.
“Another three people went under water before rescue workers’ eyes.”
Those three are most likely dead, he said.
The ships, the Kandy and the Maestro, had crews of nationals from India and Turkey.
The Kandy had a 17-strong crew, while the Maestro carried 14 people.
Twelve people had survived, Kravchenko said, but “no one knows where the other five people are.”
The fire broke out when one vessel was transferring fuel to the other, driving both crews to jump overboard, said Kravchenko.
“A search-and-rescue operation is continuing,” Kravchenko added.
Authorities in the Crimean city of Kerch were preparing to receive the victims, he added.
The accident struck close to the Kerch Strait, which has become a new flashpoint in tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
In November, Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels in the Kerch Strait as they tried to pass from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea.
The confrontation was the first open military clash between Kiev and Moscow since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and a pro-Russian insurgency erupted in eastern Ukraine.