Pakistan Pres. Zardari barred from pardoning Christian woman
(Photo: Pprotesters demand the release of Asia Bibi at a Karachi rally, November 25, 2010/Akhtar Soomro)
A Pakistani court has barred President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of insulting Islam, in a case that has sparked criticism over the country’s blasphemy law. Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of four, requested a pardon from the president after a lower court sentenced her to death on Nov 8 in a case stemming from a village dispute.
The Lahore High Court barred Zardari on Monday from pardoning Bibi in a petition filed by Shahid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen. Iqbal’s lawyer Allah Bux Laghari told Reuters a pardon was illegal as the court was already hearing an appeal against her sentence.
“We believe it is the court’s duty to evaluate the evidence against her, not individuals, and if she is found innocent, she should be freed,” he said.
Human rights groups have demanded the repeal of the law, which they say discriminates against religious minorities who make up roughly 4 percent of Pakistan’s 170 million population. Last week, a government minister said an initial inquiry into the case of the Christian mother said she had not committed blasphemy but was falsely accused after a quarrel.
Blasphemy convictions are common although the death sentence has never been carried out. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal, but angry mobs have killed many people accused of blasphemy.
(Photo: Muslim religious students demand punishment for Asia Bibi at a rally in Karachi November 26, 2010/Athar Hussain)
Here’s the link to the story by Mubasher Bukhari. See also our recent coverage of the blasphemy law issue: