Asia Bibi central to trade deals, EU tells Pakistan
The EU’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Jan Figel, told Pakistani officials during a recent visit that the renewal of their export privileges to Europe depends on the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy since 2010.
“The EU countries have started believing that Pakistan’s Supreme Court, appeasing certain political and fundamental forces of Pakistan, is intentionally delaying the hearing of Asia Bibi,” an EU press release earlier this month stated, adding that the renewal of Pakistan’s GPS Plus trading status will be linked to the outcome of her case.
Asia Bibi, mother of five children, has been in prison since 2009 and was sentenced to death for blasphemy a year later. She appealed but her last appearance before Pakistan’s Supreme Court, 18 months ago, was adjourned amid protests.
Tortured and abused
Pakistan is number 5 on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List. Blasphemy against Islam is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. Recently, 800 families fled their neighbourhood in Lahore after Patras Masih, a 20-year-old Christian, was accused of posting a blasphemous picture in a Facebook group. The families feared a repeat of previous instances when Christian neighbourhoods have been set on fire following blasphemy accusations.
Patras was taken into custody, but in the latest development to the case his cousin Sajid Masih is now in hospital as a result, he claims, of police brutality.
Sajid (24) claims that when he was called in as a witness, he was tortured and abused by police. He was beaten, kicked and hit with an electrical cable.
“I asked them why they were beating me,” Sajid said. “They said my fault was that I was Patras’ cousin. Then they told me to call myself and Patras ‘accursed’.” When the police tried to force Sajid into performing a humiliating and degrading act with his cousin, he saw no other way out than to jump from the window, suffering multiple fractures as a result.
Shockingly, the FIA Inspector investigating the case, Khalid Saeed, lodged a criminal case against Sajid the following day for attempting to commit suicide, a crime punishable with one year’s imprisonment and a fine.
Outraged, shocked, horrified
Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, which advocates for Pakistani minorities, said in a statement: “We are outraged, shocked and horrified by the alleged behaviour of the FIA Cybercrime Wing officials. We demand that this incident be investigated at the earliest, and firm action be taken against the officials involved.”
Punjab parliamentarian Shunila Ruth raised the question of the security of Pakistani Christians in the Punjab Assembly. She said that Christians would stand for justice and if anyone violated the law then he or she should be brought to justice. Ruth said that she had demanded an independent inquiry. “It shouldn’t be that FIA investigate their personnel who tortured and used these inhumane investigation techniques,” she said. She also raised an objection that despite the passing of four days, Sajid’s multiple injuries hadn’t been treated with an operation.
Source: World Watch Monitor
• For Asia Bibi in prison, that the EU pressure will lead to her release
• For Patras and Sajid Masih, that justice will be done and Sajid will recover from his injuries
• For Christians in Pakistan who face increasing violence and intimidation.
How Open Doors helps
In cooperation with local churches and other partnering ministries, Open Doors supports the church in Pakistan through:
• Emergency aid to victims of violent persecution
• Counselling and trauma therapy
• Training (eg pastor's training, literacy training and vocational projects)
• Women's ministry
• Bible literacy.
A prayer for Lahore and cities in distress