Pardon delayed for Pakistani Christian woman facing execution
ITAN WALI, Pakistan, December 2, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Christian mother of five facing execution in her native Pakistan for defending her faith cannot be pardoned by the country’s President at this juncture, the Lahore High Court has ruled.
Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old farm worker from the small town of Itan Wali in the Punjab region, was sentenced to be hanged last month after being imprisoned and charged with blasphemy in 2009.
The woman had gotten into an argument with some Muslims with whom she worked. They refused to drink water that she had touched with her hand, saying it was contaminated because she is a Christian. She was finally arrested by police after she and her children were beaten and tortured by a number of Muslim men. She also says that she was raped.
The incident has sparked international calls for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to issue Bibi a pardon, which, according to CNN, he is prepared to grant.
At the same time, the High Court in Lahore, the country’s second largest city, ruled this week that the president may not grant a pardon while the case is under appeal, reports Agenzia Fides. The case is currently before the High Court.
President Zardari has maintained, however, that the High Court lacks the jurisdiction to prevent the pardon, a view confirmed by the country’s Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, it appears that the president, who is facing pressure from extremists in the largely Islamic country, will wait on the appeal process before intervening.
Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, told Agenzia Fides on Wednesday that his family is “leading a threatened life.” “We are being targeted by extremist groups, and we fear for our lives. We are ready to leave for Italy or for America, as soon as Asia is freed,” he said.
Fides reports that some Islamic leaders have openly declared that they could order Bibi’s death should she be released. Over 30 people accused of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy law have reportedly either been murdered in prison or killed after their release.
President Asif Zardari