Dozens of protesters rallied outside the Pakistani Consulate in Birmingham to call for freedom for Asia Bibi, Pakistan’s long suffering and most famous
blasphemy law victim.
The protest was organised by Pastor Ajmal Chaughtai and the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) and called on Christians of all diversities
to join poor Asia’s cause.
Christians arrived to the protest from as far afield as Nottingham to show solidarity for Asia and many other persecuted Pakistani Christians.
The peaceful protest was opened up with a prayer of reflection on the ongoing persecution in Pakistan. Then demonstrated for freedom for Asia Bibi
and for safety, equality and freedom for all minorities in Pakistan.
After protesting for one hour outside the Pakistan Embassy demonstrators moved to Centenary square where leaflets about the plight of Asia Bibi were shared with local people.
Pastor Ajmal Chaughtai, said:
“Asia Bibi’s plight is a painful reminder of the injustice in Pakistan. She has been jailed for nothing more then drinking water from a well designated for Muslims.
“Our church, all Pakistani and many global Christians are praying for her freedom and I believe one day it will come. Prayer is a tool that can break any shackles nothing can stand against the will of God.”
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
“Asia Bibi has suffered 7 years imprisonment under extremely harsh conditions including isolation and a restriction limiting her to a couple of hours daylight every two months.
“This poor woman is at her wits end and may still suffer the ignominy of further Supreme Court delay with regards to her long overdue appeal.
“Even if she is finally released after her appeal, nothing will ever compensate this mother of five for the seven years she has been incarcerated and kept away from her children.
“Pakistan must do the right thing and exonerate this innocent woman to retrieve some sense of international respect.”
British Pakistani Christian Association is calling for people to sign their petition for Asia Bibi (click here). The petition has already attained 18,510 signatures and is the largest Pakistani Christian led petition – which gives it the strongest mandate.
An Imam (Islamic religious leader) in Pakistan accused Asia Bibi of a blasphemy in 2009 for drinking water from a well that was exclusive for Muslim’s.
He determined that her Christianity made her ritually impure therefore contaminating the water. He also accused her for blasphemy for saying “My Christ
died for me what did Muhammed do for you.’ a response she uttered whilst being beaten and ridiculed for her faith after she had offered water from
the well to Muslim co-workers.
Asia Bibi has been incarcerated in the most brutal conditions, living in isolation and forced to cook her food for fear of poisoning after several
failed attempts. She sees the light of day once every three months for about an hour and her sanity is reaching breaking point – some say only her
devout faith has kept her sane so far.
After Asia’s initial Supreme court appeal was adjourned due to Judge Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman declaring a conflict of interest on the day of the hearing,
faith in Pakistan’s creaking legal system waned even thinner. The same judge retired from the legal profession within a month.
About 150 top Muslim clerics (muftis) from the radical Islamist group Sunni Tehreek issued a statement which demanded that the government hang Asia
Bibi and all other prisoners of blasphemy laws; and demanded a speedy trial of all cases still pending. They also issued a verbal decree that all those
who might rescue those accused of blasphemy or who assist in trying to rescue them should be killed.
At least 150 Christians, 564 Muslims, 459 Ahmadis and 21 Hindus have been jailed under blasphemy charges since 1986. The cumulative total of blasphemy
cases therefore illustrates a huge disparity in the number of minorities prosecuted as they make up 5% of the total population but just over 50% of
all blasphemy cases.