Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are an ongoing human rights abuse, and the case of Asia Bibi ought to be an international scandal. But no one much cares. After all, it isn’t as if anyone is committing something serious like “Islamophobia.”
“This ‘blaspheming’ Christian mother is on death row in Pakistan for drinking from a Muslim’s cup. Now her husband reveals that even if she’s freed the lynch mob has been offered a £60 bounty to kill her,” by Helen Roberts and Taniya Dutta, Mailonline, July 7, 2015:
The husband of a Christian Pakistani mother-of-five sentenced to death simply for drinking from a Muslim’s cup has said he fears locals will beat her to death even if she is acquitted.
Ashiq Masih gave an emotional interview to MailOnline in which he said his family had been ‘broken’ by the pain of living without his wife Asia Bibi, 50, who has been in prison for five years awaiting a death sentence for blasphemy.
Asia is the first woman sentenced to hang under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, but her husband of 22 years still insists she’s been framed and is begging the Supreme Court to acquit her later this month.
Yet he revealed that even if she is freed, they will never be able to return to their home as clerics want her dead and have put a bounty on her head. They would pay as little as £60 for her to be dead, claimed Ashiq.
A mother of four daughters and one son, Asia was arrested in 2009. Ashiq, 54, worked in the local brick kilns and his wife would go out into the fields near their village, Ittan Wali, in Punjab, to labour as a fruit picker.
On this particular day in June, one woman told Asia to get some water from a nearby well and she used a bowl sitting near by. She had used the bowl on other days but this day was to be different.
Over a Skype interview from a private location in hiding in Pakistan, Ashiq said: ‘A group of women suddenly told her not to drink from the bowl and an argument erupted. My wife will argue back, she is bold, so she stood up for herself.
‘But the women argued and then started mentioning our religion – asking silly questions.’
Asia was abused by the women, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch their water bowl.
Ashiq said: ‘We’d been targeted by villagers for a long time and they often taunted us. There had been many arguments over drainage problems and water pumps, always something to fight over.
‘Whenever we said God gave us water to share they would get very angry and warn us not to speak.’
As news of the women’s claims spread, the entire village was in uproar. Asia’s name was announced over loud speakers and she was beaten. Reports claim she was dragged through the streets and had a noose put around her neck.
Ashiq had no idea what was going on while he was at work but when he got home that evening he found Asia bruised and battered from the beating with her clothes torn.
The following day Asia continued as normal as the family were used to such abuse. Asia believed she had done nothing wrong and went to work.
But five days later, her accusers went to the local Maulvi (Muslim cleric) and put forward the blasphemy allegations, saying Asia had spoken against their Prophet Mohammed.
Eventually police came and arrested Asia. For a further 15 days officers visited Ashiq and his children daily.
He said: ‘I had this constant fear that they would arrest my children and me too. If they could arrest Asia for doing nothing then they could arrest us too.’
A month after Asia’s arrest Ashiq and his children went into hiding – and have been on the run since.
They have moved house 15 times and do not go outside without covering their faces, and if they need to travel anywhere they do so after dark.
Since Asia was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, Ashiq now only sees his wife when he can, often travelling for five-and-a-half hours to her jail in Multan, in southern Punjab.
He told MailOnline he just wants his wife home. He misses her smile and cannot sleep knowing she has been locked up an innocent victim.
‘I really love her and miss her presence,’ he said. ‘I cannot sleep at night as I miss her. I miss her smile; I miss everything about her. She is my soul mate. I cannot see her in prison. It breaks my heart. Life has been non-existent without her….