A human rights group says that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s blasphemy law has led to the creation of “many Asia Bibis” in the Southeast Asian country.
Last month, Pakistan’s Supreme Court reaffirmed an earlier ruling that acquitted a Christian mother of five named Asia Bibi of committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammed. Bibi had been on death row for over eight years.
Aid to the Church in Need, a human rights group set up by the Catholic Church, recently stated that despite the legal victory, there still remain “many Asia Bibis” in Pakistan.
One example given by ACN was Sawan Masih, a young Christian man and father of three who was sentenced to death in 2014 for allegedly violating the nation’s blasphemy law.
Masih has appealed the decision, but ACN has stated that “he is still waiting for appeal proceedings” following delays. Masih’s next court date is now scheduled for Feb. 28. Bibi's appeal had also been delayed several times by the country's high court over the years.
“Just as was the case for Asia Bibi, there are a lot of irregularities in Sawan’s case. The charges against him were brought by one of his Muslim friends, Shahid Imran, following an argument between the two men,” explained the group.
“Only two days later, two witnesses appeared who had not even been present at the time Muhammed was allegedly insulted.”
According to the National Commission for Justice and Peace, there are at present 25 legal cases in Pakistan of Christians accused of committing blasphemy.
Furthermore, the NCJP reported that 23 Christians were killed after they were accused of violating the Islamic country’s blasphemy laws.
In 2010, Bibi was found guilty of blasphemy against the Islamic faith, stemming from an incident in 2009 when a group of Muslim women were upset that the Christian woman drank from the same water supply as them. She was sentenced to death.
Bibi denied the charge and appealed the decision. However, she remained in prison for many years in spite of pressure from human rights organizations across the globe.
Last October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Bibi, concluding that “the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.”
Violent protests broke out in response, with many vowing to kill Bibi. Her acquittal was upheld last month and she is now free to leave the country. But she was eventually placed at an undisclosed location near Karachi and though countries such as Canada have offered her asylum, she remains stuck.
“She has no indication of when she will leave,” said Aman Ullah, a liaison between Bibi and European diplomats, as reported by the Associated Press. “... they are not telling her why she cannot leave.”