Asia Bibi Pleads for Justice for Victims of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws
As Asia Bibi sits free at last in a secret location in Canada, the Pakistani Christian woman who spent years on death row after a false blasphemy charge thinks of those left behind still facing the same ordeal. Nearly four months after the 54-year-old finally left Pakistan following a miscarriage of justice that caused worldwide outcry, she has the opportunity to rebuild a new life for her and her daughters. Yet while she is enthusiastically grateful for the international efforts to free her, she says the world should know that Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws have left many others still behind bars.
In her first ever newspaper interview, she told The Sunday Telegraph she had at times fallen into despair after being sentenced to death in a case condemned around the world. She also spoke of her heartbreak at being forced to leave her homeland, amid fears she would be murdered by religious extremists even after Pakistan’s supreme court had quashed her flimsy conviction.
Her freedom was finally secured with mediation from a European Union special envoy, Jan Figel, a Slovak politician. While she is currently in Canada, she is hoping to move to an undisclosed country in Europe in the coming months.
Mrs Bibi, also known as Asya Noureen, said her wrongful conviction had devastated her life. “My whole life suffered, my children suffered and this had a huge impact on my life,” she said in a series of voice messages sent in response to questions from the Telegraph. Mrs Bibi thanked the supreme court for acquitting her, but said others also needed fair trials. “There are many other cases where the accused are lying in jail for years and their decision should also be done on merit. The world should listen to them.”
Mrs Bibi was first convicted of blasphemy after she quarrelled with two Muslim women while they picked falsa berries for a landowner in rural Punjab in 2009. Her accusers claimed she insulted the Prophet Mohammed in an argument because the women would not drink from a container she had touched. The accusation was taken up by the village mullah and she was taken to court and sentenced to death in 2010. But Mrs Bibi said she had been made to confess at the hands of a village mob who nearly beat her unconscious. She denied she had ever committed blasphemy. She spent eight years on death row, constantly fearing for her life, before the case was quashed in the supreme court last October.