Wednesday’s announcement that Pakistani Christian Aasiya Noreen (a.k.a. Asia Bibi) has been allowed to appeal her death sentence and stand before Pakistan’s Supreme Court is being lauded as a “historic day for Pakistan.” Bibi’s execution has been stayed until the Supreme Court reaches its decision, yet some commentators stress the fact that she has yet to be freed.
Many have noted the bravery of the Pakistani Supreme Court for agreeing to hear Bibi’s appeal, given the public pressure to punish those who violate Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws. However, her case is still not closed, and some have expressed concerns that her appeal will serve to rally support for extremist groups.
An anonymous source explains: “I just spoke with a lawyer who does not want to be named. She is a Muslim who has spoken out a lot against the way the judiciary has handled Aasiya's case. While Christians see this as an answer to prayer (Wednesday’s court decision), from where she is standing she feels unnerved by today’s ruling.
“I think Aasiya is more at risk than ever. This has paved the way to rile up the extremists and create an urgency to destroy her and raise the profile of their cause: the removal of minorities from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“This is just a stay. Don't get too excited. Aasiya is not free until she is free. This can drag on for another 20 years.”
Of course, Christians acknowledge that her case is in the hands of a wise and almighty God.
“Our God is bigger than any of these fears. In Jesus’ name we will see victory for the Church and the enemy's plan will be thwarted,” said a woman at a Christian center in Pakistan.
The other women near her responded with, “Jai Masih Ki,” which means, “Hail King Jesus/Glory to Jesus.”
Bibi, 50, was sentenced to death on Nov. 7, 2010 for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad, making her the first woman to face the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The incident in question occurred during an argument with a Muslim colleague in the summer of 2009. The colleague had rejected water offered to her by Bibi, claiming that it had been defiled during handling by a Christian.
While the Muslim woman and her sister were the only witnesses in the case, their evidence was upheld as credible, despite the defense’s efforts to prove otherwise.
In the six years since, Bibi has been confined to suffering in a high-security Pakistani prison, and is now being held in a women’s jail in Multan.
Bibi is one of 15 Pakistani Christians who are believed to be facing the death penalty for violating the country’s oft-criticized blasphemy laws.
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Courtesy: Open Doors
Publication date: July 24, 2015