The government of Pakistan has reportedly pardoned a young medical student who joined the Islamic State terror group but was stopped before blowing up a Christian church on Easter, insisting that she can serve as an example to others.
Major General Asif Ghafoor argued on Samaa TV that Noreen Laghari is not a terrorist, and due to the actions of Pakistan's armed forces who caught her before carrying out the bombing, her mind has been rescued from brainwashing, the British Pakistani Christian Association reported on Wednesday.
"So should we treat Noreen like a terrorist or release her so that she can tell others how she was trapped and used for terrorism?" Ghafoor asked. "In this way, awareness will be created among the younger generation and parents as well as institutions."
The BPCA noted that Pakistan's Muslim majority had pressed for Laghari's freedom, but wondered if they would have been so merciful if the medical student, who had left to join IS in Syria, had attempted to blow up a Muslim school instead.
"Noreen Leghari is a woman intelligent enough to be considered for a role as a doctor yet is being described as pliable and immature," BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry said.
"Miss Leghari's animosity for Christians would no doubt have led to many deaths including her own, yet a 'soul searching nation' have a strong will and desire to show her mercy."
Chowdhry continued: "How many of these same Pakistani citizens would be so forgiving had Miss Legahri planned to bomb a Muslim School?
"If it were Muslims that were targeted by Legahri I am certain many of the campaigners would find her crime too offensive for granting a pardon — Christian lives are ostensibly less valuable in Pakistan."
Chowdhry argued that it is "hard to believe" that Legahri's "deep-rooted hatred" has simply vanished when she was ready to kill Christians this Easter.
"Years down the line I pray we do not discover a series of 'Shipman' type deaths of Christians at any hospital she is employed by," he warned, referring to British GP and serial killer Harold Shipman.
"I asked several Pakistani Christians whether they would trust a doctor who had previously attempted to bomb a church on Easter Day, to administer care for them. It was no surprise to me that the unanimous response was a resounding no."
While Laghari has been pardoned, Christians in Pakistan continue being targeted by the nation's blasphemy laws, and severely punished if found guilty of insulting the Islamic faith.
A court in Pakistan sentenced a Christian man to life in prison earlier in May for sending "blasphemous" text messages from his mobile phone.
Legal advocacy group CLAAS vowed to continue fighting for Zafar Bhatti's freedom despite the harsh sentencing.
"The lower court's judges always hesitate to make decisions on the merit, or free people accused of blasphemy, and instead transfer their burden to the higher court without realizing how their decision will impact the accused and their families' lives," Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK, said in a statement.
"Bhatti is innocent and will be freed by the higher court. But it will take several years for his case to be heard by the High court, and until then he and his family will continue suffering needlessly."
Accoridng to the Center for Research and Security Studies in Pakistan, at least 65 people have been killed over blasphemy allegations in the country since 1990, and dozens more convicted of the crime have been placed on death row.