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.


13 under arrest for Sri Lanka blasts: police

Sri Lankan security personnel keep watch outside the church premises following a blast at the St. Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade in Colombo on April 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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13 under arrest for Sri Lanka blasts: police

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police have arrested 13 men in connection with bomb blasts on churches and hotels that killed more than 200 people, officials said Monday.
Authorities have not made public details on those held after Sunday’s attacks. But a police source told AFP the 13 were detained at two locations in and around Colombo.
The source said the 13 men are from the same radical group.
At least two of the eight attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, according to police and other sources, and three police were killed when another suicide bomber detonated explosives during a raid on a house where suspects were.