Zardari stays execution of Christian woman

By Awais Saleem, IANS
Friday, November 19, 2010

ISLAMABAD - Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Friday stayed the execution of a Christian woman who was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy.

The woman, Aasia Bibi, was given the death sentence by an additional sessions judge in Nankana Sahib district a week ago on charges of committing blasphemy under the Pakistan Penal Code.

A religious leader of the local mosque, Qari Saleem, had lodged an FIR against Aasia Bibi for allegedly passing derogatory remarks against the last prophet of Muslims.

The judge also imposed a fine of Rs.300,000 on her.

Zardari Friday directed Shahbaz Bhatti, federal minister for minorities, to submit a report within three days.

S.K. Shahid, lawyer for the accused, had already challenged the verdict in the Lahore High Court.

Meanwhile, the spokesman of the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP), an NGO working for minority rights in Pakistan, said the proceedings of the case took place under intense pressure and the verdict was likely to be overturned in the high court.

The case has drawn huge attention in the local media and there is deep sympathy for Aasia Bibi.

Several NGOs have called for repealing the blasphemy law because it was “being used by illiterate masses in rural areas to hoodwink the minorities”.

The blasphemy law was created during the regime of late military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. With the passage of time, there has been increasing perception amongst the intelligentsia that it has done more harm than good.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at

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