An appeal hearing for a Catholic woman sentenced to death on Pakistan on charges of blasphemy will take place on May 27.
Accrording to a Fides report, Asia Bibi, who has been incarcerated in the women’s prison in Multan for more than four and a half years, will have her case discussed in front of a panel of judges of the Lahore High Court, led by Judge Anwar-Ul- Haq.
Since February, the judiciary of Lahore has postponed the hearings four times because the judges themselves, who are under pressure from Islamic groups, fear reprisals, and are avoiding responsibility in deciding on the case.
“In Asia Bibi’s case, any delay or postponement means denying justice”, says a note sent to Fides by the lawyer Mushtaq Gill, head of the NGO LEAD (“Legal Evangelical Association Development”), committed to the defense of Christian Pakistanis.
“Too often,” he writes, “Christians are considered as ‘second class citizens’, justice is denied, especially when they are accused of blasphemy”.
Christians branded as “blasphemous”, even if most of the time on the basis of false accusations, risk their lives and also the lives of those who dare to defend them is at risk.
For example, a mosque has been named after Mumtaz Qadri, a man who in January 2011 shot and killed the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer for having having defended Bibi.
For this reason, many of those Christians who are successfully released after having been accused of blasphemy are forced to leave the country.
Their lawyers, meanwhile, also face intimidation and threats. Lawyer Gill concludes: “The battle against extremists in Pakistan cannot be won until the government puts in place the necessary legislative reforms: what needs to be done to get to the root of the problem is to first of all repeal the blasphemy laws without fearing the reaction of extremists”.