Friday, January 14, 2011

Asia Bibi Still in Great Danger

Asia Bibi Still Without 'Adequate Security,' Says Report
A, B and C of the Pakistan blasphemy law
All this from Intercessors Network and Lars Widerberg out of Sweden. Painting: Church of the Holy Apostles

Asia Bibi Still Without 'Adequate Security,' Says Report
By Xavier Partas William

No extra security measures have been taken to protect the life of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges and whose life is constantly being threatened by militants and extremist religious elements, a report compiled by a provincial intelligence agency said on Wednesday (January 12, 2011).

The report, monitored by ANS, was sent to the agency's provincial headquarters through its regional office.

The severity of threat to the life of Asia Bibi spiked after the assassination of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, but the provincial government is yet to take effective security measures, ANS has discovered.

Asia Bibi is incarcerated in the women's barrack in Sheikhupura district jail along with 15 or 16 other detainees.

Just one female warden has been assigned to her inside the jail and five police constables deputed to secure the jail's perimeter, along with two motorcycle squads assigned to patrol the jail periphery.

The report said that the guards assigned to her "are not vigilant and most of the times they are absent, especially the motorcycle riders".

Referring to the many loopholes in Asia Bibi's security, the intelligence agency pointed out that her husband, Ashiq Masih, is allowed to visit her like "a normal visitor in an ordinary/casual shed, and there are no special security precautions" on ground.

Stressing the need for extra security, the report recommended that Asia Bibi should be sent to the women's jail in Multan, a city in the Punjab Province of Pakistan and capital of Multan District. It said that there were "better security arrangements which preempts the chance of an attack or any untoward incident".

Interestingly, the Ministry of Interior had asked the Punjab government to increase security for Asia Bibi in Sheikhupura Jail.

Following the recent debate in Pakistan about the blasphemy law and the subsequent assassination of late Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer for speaking out against the law, Minorities Minister, Shabhaz Bhatti, a Christian, who first spoke out against the blasphemy law, believes he is "the highest target right now".

Bhatti told the Pakistan media, "During this Bibi case, I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer. these messages are coming to me even publicly."

Bhatti and his allies say the law against defamation of the Prophet Mohammed is often used to settle petty disputes, and human rights activists say the act encourages extremism in a nation already besieged by Taliban attacks.

Bhatti said fatwas, or religious decrees had been issued calling for him to be beheaded, by extremist clerics in the country who were allowed to publicly spread messages of violence with impunity.

"The government should register cases against all tho se using hate speeches," said Bhatti, who insists he will work as usual despite the threats.

"I'm not talking about special security arrangements. We need to stand against these forces of terrorism because they're terrorising the country.

"I cannot even trust security.. I believe that protection can come only from heaven, so these bodyguards can't save you."

Former information minister, Sherry Rehman, initiated the current controversy when she introduced a bill in November calling for an end to the death penalty for blasphemy.

"I'm sure everyone at the top is worried about this and concerned about the level of security we all have," said Rehman, speaking to the media from her heavily-guarded home in Karachi, where 50,000 people rallied on Sunday hailing Qadri as a "hero."

She said she uses her own private security company instead of public protection, and said they had advised her to stay at home and not to travel to the capital Islamabad.

"I'm not being foolish but I'm going to be rational," she said. "I don't plan to turn away. I have put the bill in, it's not an extreme position like a repeal bill. They (the extremists) can't decide what we think or speak."

Country wide rallies have been announced by the by the Islamic extremist groups after the Friday prayers on January, 14, 2011. The Christian Community has b een instructed to stay vigilant.

A, B and C of the Pakistan blasphemy law
Making the necessary distinction between blasphemy and the blasphemy laws
By Xavier Partas William

It is common to say that a law is introduced to provide remedy for a mischief. What is the mischief that section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) provides a remedy for?

The issue of Tauheen-i-Risalat (insult of the Holy Prophet) first raised head here in the 1920s when a publication in Lahore by a Hindu publisher Raj Pal agitated the minds of some segments of Muslim population.

Raj Pal was prosecuted under Section 153A which provided to punishment for acts (words, either spoken or written or by visible representations, or otherwise) that promoted feelings of enmity or hatred between different classes. He was convicted and sentenced by the Sessions Court at Lahore.

The conviction was however set aside by the high court with the opinion that though Raj Pal's act may have outraged religious feelings of Muslims it did not fall within the mischief of Section 153, and that another legal provision was needed to be incorporated to remedy the mischief (Raj Pal versus The Emperor: AIR 1927 Lahore 250).

Raj Pal was later murdered in 1929 by Ilm Din.

In 1927, after the Lahore High Court judgment, the British Government introduced section 2 95-A (to the then Indian Penal Code, 1860) which provided for punishment for "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs." It was thought that it would take care of acts, among other things, of insult to the person of the Holy Prophet that should be deemed to be covered under the umbrella of acts intended to outrage religious feelings.

Between 1927 and 1986 (the year when section 295-C was introduced), only a handful of cases (around 10) of result of the Holy Prophet were reported.

Several provisions were added to the religious insult laws in PPC's Chapter XV titled "Offences relating to religion" during 1980s during the rule of the military dictator, General Zia (1977-1988). Those provisions included the Anti-Islamic Activities of the Qadiani Group, Lahori Group and Ahmadis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance, 1984, which introduced sections 298-B & C to the PPC specifically targeting the Ahmedis.

Another section 298-B was also introduced by Gen. Zia through an ordina nce. Earlier in 1980, section 298-A was also introduced by Gen. Zia through which provides for punishment for use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of holy personages, and was apparently intended to target Shias.

Yet another section, 295-B, was added to PPC in 1982 which provided punishment for defiling of the Holy Quran.

Section 295-C, which was introduced through Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1986 (Act III of 1986) seems to have proved to be the harshest.

Originally, the draft bill moved by Jamat-i-Islami's Apa Nisar Fatima, provided for death sentence alone for acts constituting insult to the Holy Prophet. It was passed by the then parliament in an amended form by providing alternative punishment of life imprisonment.

Later, in 1990 the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) declared the alternative punishment of life imprisonment against the injunctions of Islam. In 1991, Nawaz Sharif government withdrew appeal against the FSC decision. It was thereafter that registration of cases under section 295-C saw a s harp rise.

One of the two main arguments for introducing Section 295-C, and later on retaining it, are said to prevent vigilante justice so that people did not take law into their own hands as in the case of Ilm Din; the other being the need to punish anyone showing disrespect to the Holy Prophet as said to be necessitated by the Islamic injunctions.

When section 295-A was introduced in 1927, the British Government acted wisely by making a corresponding change in section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 which prohibits courts from taking cognizance of certain offences unless complaint is made by the government. It empowered the government alone to become complainant and prosecute cases registered under section 295-A.

The most famous case for alleged insult of the Holy Prophet before the introduction of section 295-C was registered under section 295-A against a Lahore lawyer. The case was dismissed by the Sessions Court as it was withdrawn by the Governmen t because there "was no case of Tauheen-i-Risalat by the lawyer."

There was no recorded case of anyone having been killed extra-judicially for the insult of the Holy Prophet after Raj Pal until 1986. Indeed, there was no empirical basis which sustained the argument of justifying 295-C for the prevention of vigilante justice.

On the other hand, villages like Gojra and Shanti Nagar, have been burnt with scores dead. Twenty individuals are reported to have been murdered since the introduction of section 295-C. Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer, who was shot dead in Islamabad on Tuesday, January 4, 2011, by a member of his own protection detail, may have been the twenty-first. But he only questioned the utility of section 295-C and paid the ultimate price for doing so.

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By producing a small written item to present the leadership of your nation, picture the current situation as to persecution and/or missions, add information on spiritual combat and frontlines of confrontation, report on the situation of the poor and needy in your society we will be able to come alongside in prayer.
By writing on these subjects or by sending articles written by others you will draw the attention of many intercessors, who are eager engage in the most rewarding pursuits available to man – PRAYER.
Please, do not hesitate to try to describe urgent prayer targets. . .
Blessings on every effort in this realm. . .

Lars W.

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