UPDATE: 14 October 2016
On 13 October 2016, Asia Bibi’s appeal against a death sentence for Blasphemy was scheduled to go before the Supreme Court in Pakistan, but has been delayed.
Asia was accused of blasphemy after an argument with two Muslim women in 2009 and has been in prison since. The blasphemy law in Pakistan carries only one penalty. Judges have no choice but a death sentence if a person is found guilty. The blasphemy law has long been used against minorities in the country, with false accusations often made against Christians.
Her case has been delayed with no date scheduled and a judge has excused himself from the case. This means she will remain in prison, awaiting a new trial date.
Keep praying for Asia and her family. While the process of appeals and situation in prison has not been good for Asia, a positive verdict could be a turning point for Christians in Pakistan. If Asia is found not guilty or it’s found that the investigation was flawed, it is likely that changes to the law will be proposed. Asia’s case has also brought a lot of attention to the law and made many in Pakistan call for changes.
Six years on from her initial arrest, Asia (Aasiya) Bibi is still waiting in prison for her final appeal before the highest court of appeal.
Asia was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws. That sentence was confirmed by several courts. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court allowed her a leave to appeal. In effect, this meant her death sentence was temporarily delayed until the Supreme Court rules on her case.
This may take six to eight years to happen.
Friends of the ALIVE network of churches, supported by Open Doors in Pakistan, have done research into Asia’s current situation.
Life in Prison
Life for Asia in Multan Jail is harsh. She is living with around 150 other inmates in a prison block with capacity for only 30-40 people. Multan’s summers are extremely hot, and combined with overcrowding, poor sanitation, ventilation and lighting, the conditions in prison would be unbearable.
A program was developed in the prison that requires them to read the Quran. Sources told ALIVE that most female prisoners are angry with Allah, but are afraid. They rock back and forth regardless of whether they can comprehend what they are reading. They are told that if they memorize a significant portion of the Quran, their prison sentence will be reduced and they will please Allah.
Asia spends her days in solitary confinement and is likely not allowed to go outside. She is suffering from internal bleeding and poor health, and longs to be reunited with her family. Despite poor medical care and living conditions, ALIVE workers believe that because of the international pressure and media coverage, she has received better care than other prisoners.
Symbol of Christian Persecution
“In Pakistan and abroad, Asia has become a symbol of suffering for one’s faith,” an ALIVE worker tells Open Doors. “She is a symbol for (the Christian) community, which pays for its faith with its mothers, wives, fathers, husbands, and children. The rage and brutality against Pakistani Christians continues.”
“The question on most people’s mind is: ‘Why does God allow this to happen?’ For me, the purpose is clear… she is a living example of the need to come to the Lord in prayer… We have been raising prayer support for Asia for many years and have been encouraging local Christians to take the lead in praying for their sister in prison.”
Now more at risk than ever
Asia’s situation is still critical. She is still in solitary confinement and more at risk than ever before. Extremists have threatened to take the law into their own hands and assassinate Asia themselves. “They drive around the Multan Jail and fire their heavy ammunition into the air to intimidate her and any legal assistance she has,” a local pastor told us. He was able to meet Asia in the early years of her imprisonment but has since only been able to go and pray at the jail without any hope of seeing her.
2009 – Asia Bibi is accused of blasphemy after offering water to some Muslim women she is working with in a field. They reject her offer saying because she is Christian the water is unclean or ‘Haram.’ The women tell her to convert to Islam to which she refuses and the complaint is made.
2010 – The court hears that the argument was over water and not the Koran or Mohamed but sentences Asia to death for blasphemy. The first women to receive this sentence.
2011 – Salam Taseer the Govenor of Punjab meets with Asia in prison and prepares a petition for mercy. His body guard however kills him, shooting him 27 times.
2014 – The High Court hears Asia’s appeal but upholds the death sentence on the grounds of blasphemy.
2015 – The body guard of Salam Taseer is sentenced to death for his murder. Extremist groups are outraged at the decision and issue further threats against Asia should she be released.
2016 – Asia goes before the Supreme Court of Pakistan to fight the charge of blasphemy and overturn her death sentence.
- Pray that God would minister to Asia and encourage her in prison
- Pray for healing for her body
- Pray that the will of the extremists seeking her execution would not come to pass
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