Pakistan on the Human Rights Council, and Asia Bibi’s release: the former should not happen without the latter, unless the council changes its name to the UN Council for Window Dressing and Hypocrisy. “Petition: Free Pakistani Christian woman set for execution,” from CNN, March 14:
(CNN) — Activists presented a petition Tuesday to the United Nations Human Rights Council calling on Pakistan to free a Christian mother of five from being put to death on the charge of blasphemy.
A Pakistani court [found] Asia Bibi guilty of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during a 2009 argument with Muslim fellow field workers. The offense is punishable by death or life imprisonment, according to Pakistan’s penal code, and Bibi was sentenced to hang.
But an investigation by a Pakistani government ministry found the charges stemmed from religious and personal enmity and recommended Bibi’s release.
However, Asia Bibi’s case may not be heard until 2015. It is almost as if the government would rather have her die in prison than to have to deal with the fallout of making a decision.
The blasphemy law criminalizes disagreement on the basis of conscience. It is a supremacist measure designed to keep non-Muslims and dissenting Muslims afraid and erring on the side of keeping quiet.
The petition was signed by 50 activists including a former Czech foreign minister, the president of the U.N. General Assembly, a survivor of Tiananmen Square and a women’s rights advocate from Mali.
“With Pakistan now running for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, the government should make an important gesture by releasing Asia Bibi, and repealing its blasphemy law, which is inconsistent with basic human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group that organized the petition.
However, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that the government will not change the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
Liberal politician Salman Taseer, then governor of Punjab, who led a campaign to end the law, was assassinated in January 2011. Taseer said the blasphemy laws were being misused to persecute religious minorities and had called for Bibi’s release.
Don’t forget the late Shahbaz Bhatti, either.
Bibi writes about her ordeal in a recently published book called “Get Me Out of Here.” It includes a letter she wrote to her family urging them to have faith in God. “My children,” she wrote, “don’t lose courage or faith in Jesus Christ.”