Category Archives: Pakistan

Aasia Bibi: Christian acquitted of blasphemy leaves Pakistan

Aasi
Bibi was convicted and sentenced to death for blasphemy by a trial court in November 2010 [File: AP]
by Asad Hashim

Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s Supreme Court last year in a case that has become emblematic of fair trial concerns in such cases, has been granted asylum in Canada, her lawyer says.

Bibi, 53, flew out of Pakistan after being held for months in protective custody by Pakistani authorities following her acquittal, Saif-ul-Malook told Al Jazeera by telephone on Wednesday.

She joins her husband and two daughters, Malook said. “She has gone to Canada, she will live there now as she has been granted asylum by them,” he said.

Canadian authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.

Bibi spent eight years on death row after her arrest in the central village of Ithan Wali after an argument with two Muslim women who refused to drink water from the same vessel as her, due to her religion.

The women and a local cleric accused Bibi of having insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad during the altercation, a charge that she has consistently denied.

Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where the country’s strict laws prescribe a mandatory death penalty for some forms of the crime.

Increasingly, blasphemy allegations have led to murders and mob lynchings, with at least 74 people killed in such violence since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

Among those killed were Salman Taseer, then a provincial governor, and Shahbaz Bhatti, then a federal minister, in 2010. Both officials had stood up for Bibi when she was first accused of blasphemy.

Incendiary issue

In a landmark judgment acquitting Bibi, the Supreme Court noted in October that there were “glaring and stark” contradictions in the prosecution’s case against Bibi.

“[There is] the irresistible and unfortunate impression that all those concerned in the case with providing evidence and conducting investigation had taken upon themselves not to speak the truth of at least not to divulge the whole truth,” wrote Justice Asif Khosa, now Pakistan’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, in the verdict.

Bibi had been convicted and sentenced to death by a trial court in November 2010, with the Lahore High Court upholding her conviction on appeal four years later. Rights groups had long insisted there were numerous fair trial concerns in her case, as well as in blasphemy prosecutions generally.

The Supreme Court verdict prompted days of violent protests by the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious group with widespread support that has long pushed for those accused of blasphemy to be executed or murdered extrajudicially.

Led by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the TLP blocked roads and major intersections across the country following Bibi’s acquittal in October.

Rizvi was arrested in November and charged with treason for leading the protests. Afzal Qadri, the cofounder of the TLP, released a statement last week apologising for the protests and promising not to engage in further political activity.

Rizvi, and scores of other TLP activists, remain in police custody, charged with hate speech and inciting violence.

Days after the verdict was announced, Bibi’s lawyer Malook sought refuge in the Netherlands, citing threats to his life for having represented her.

In February, Bibi told the Associated Press news agency through an intermediary that she was being held by Pakistani authorities in indefinite protective custody and that they would not let her leave the country.

On Tuesday, “the long running issue” of her departure from the country was resolved, her lawyer says, and Bibi is now safely in Canada and reunited with her family.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/aasia-bibi-christian-acquitted-blasphemy-leaves-pakistan-190508072729494.html

Pakistan Asma Aziz: Wife who had ‘head shaved for refusing to dance’

Violence photoAsma Aziz appealed for public help in a video posted online

A Pakistani woman has publicly accused her husband of beating her and shaving her head for refusing to dance for him and his friends, in a case that has raised new concerns about women’s safety in the country.

Asma Aziz, from Lahore, made headlines when she published a shocking video on social media showing her shaven head and bruised face.

Her husband, Mian Faisal, and a servant are both in police custody. Mr Faisal has denied torture.

However, the case has prompted calls for more to be done to protect women from domestic violence.

In a tweet, Amnesty International said “systemic change” was necessary.

In her video posted on 26 March, an emotional Ms Aziz alleged that two days earlier she was tortured after refusing to dance in front of her husband’s friends who were at their house in Lahore’s upmarket Defence Housing Authority (DHA) district.

“He took my clothes off in front of his servants. The servants held me as he shaved my hair off and burned it. My clothes were bloody. I was bound by a pipe and hung from the fan. He threatened to hang me naked,” she said.

She said she went to the police to file a complaint but they procrastinated – the police deny the allegation, saying that immediately after Ms Aziz’s visit to the police station a team was dispatched to her residence but it was found locked and the DHA management prevented them from entering the premises.

Police acted only after the video came to the notice of Deputy Minister for Interior, Sheheryar Afridi, who ordered officers to register a complaint.

Mr Faisal and the servant, Rashid Ali, were arrested the following day. A preliminary medical report found multiple bruises, swelling and redness on Ms Aziz’s arms, cheeks and around her left eye.

Ms Aziz’s lawyers later pleaded that the case be tried under the stricter anti-terrorism law instead of the usual criminal procedure.

In papers filed to the Lahore police on Wednesday, the lawyers argued that the case had caused “wider restlessness and anxiety in society”.

Mr Faisal told the police last week that his wife had started cutting her hair under the influence of drugs, and that he, having also taken drugs, only helped her finish the job.

The case caused a furore on social media, with many voicing their anger at domestic violence in Pakistan.

Pakistani actress and singer Sanam Saeed was among those who spoke out in defence of Ms Aziz.

Women’s rights in socially conservative Pakistan has been a contentious topic of debate for years.

The UN’s Gender Inequality Index in 2016 puts Pakistan 147th in a list of 188 countries based on its poor record on women’s health, education, political empowerment and economic status.

Violence against women and girls remains a serious issue. Activists say official statistics do not reveal the extent of the problem – many cases go unreported.

Women’s Day marches last month brought complaints from some conservative groups. Some of the protest organisers said they received death and rape threats on social media.

Reporting by BBC Urdu’s Shahzad Malik in Lahore

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47805840