Christian News

Pakistani Court Issues Stay Order Against the Release of A Christian Women

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By Aftab Alexander Mughal

On November 29, Lahore High Court (LHC) in Punjab province of Pakistan has issued a stay order against the release of Aasia Noreen, a poor Pakistani Christian woman, under Presidential Order.

Mrs Noreen, 45-years old and a resident of Ittawali village (a Muslim village) in Nankana district, Punjab province of Pakistan, was sentenced to death by District and Session Judge Nankana Judge Naveed Iqbal after the court found her guilty of making blasphemous statements against Prophet Muhammad. On November 8, 2010, she was charged under a controversial blasphemy law Section 295 C, Pakistan Panel Code (PPC). Under the law it is a crime punishable by death to blaspheme the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The case became very famous because human rights organisations and Christian groups in Pakistan started a campaign for her release and for the repeal of blasphemy laws.

Earlier, she has sent a clemency appeal to the President Asif Ali Zardari for her release through the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer. Since then the hardliner Islamic parties have been organising protest rallies against the Governor and any likely pardon of Aasia Noreen.

A petition filed at the LHC by Shahid Iqbal said Aasia Noreen’s matter is subjudice; hence, the President is not authorized to give the reprieve. Aasia Noreen cannot be pardoned free until the judicial process is complete, the petitioner said.

The LHC Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, who has allegedly biased attitude against religious minorities, issued a stay order, sought a reply from the federal and provincial governments.

Pakistan is an Islamic country where Christians make up less than two (2) per cent of the total population of the country. Since the country slowly Islamised, Christians have become more vulnerable to malicious accusations under blasphemy laws. Christians have been suffering by routine discrimination in many areas of life; socially, culturally, economically and politically. Many Christian girls are abducted and forced to convert to Islam. Sometimes local mobs are incited by imams to attack Christians under alleged allegations of blasphemy against Islam, Prophet Muhammad and the holy book Quran. In a one major case after few years of Pakistan’s independence, in 1952, a Christian family of 7 were burned alive in the village of Matti, Punjab province.

The controversial blasphemy laws which protect only one religion, Islam, were introduced in the 1980s by General Zia ul Haq.

A report says that from 1986 till now, 4,000 cases were reported. From 1986 till 2007, 361 cases were registered in which 761 people (49 per cent were non-Muslims) were sentenced by the courts. Majority of cases, 69 per cent, were registered in Punjab province, 25 per cent in Khyber Pukhtonkhaw province and 25 per cent reported in Sindh province.

Aftab Alexander Mughal

Editor, Minorities Concern of Pakistan

November 29, 2010

Aftab Alexander Mughal is a Pakistani journalist and a human rights activist. He is the editor of Minorities Concern of Pakistan, an e-magazine, while he also heads the Asia desk of Spero News .

For 14 years, he served the “Minority Rights Commission of Pakistan” and “Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan” as National Director for Research and Publications and an Executive Secretary. From 1985 to 1992, he worked as Youth Director of Catholic Diocese of Multan, Pakistan.

Born in 1956 in Muzaffargarh, Southern Punjab of Pakistan, Mughal has worked with many national and international civil society organizations. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science. He has widely travelled and represented Pakistan at regional and international conferences.

He has been awarded the “International Award for Excellence in Journalism 2010” by the Union of Catholic International Press (UCIP) whose international office is in Geneva, Switzerland. The award was made at the World Congress, which was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 12 -19, 2010. This is Mughal’s second award from UCIP. His first one being the “Media in Your Country Award” which he received on the October 20, 1989 in Ruhpolding Germany.

Mughal started his career as a journalist in 1979 and edited the monthly magazines “Nishan-e-Rah” and “Mashal.” until 1985. Since then he worked as a freelance journalist. His main area of interest is human rights, peace and religious freedom in Pakistan.

He also has been contributing to national and international magazines, newspapers and various news agencies and has several books to his credit on minority rights issues including, “Death or Exile” and “From the Ashes of Shantinagar.” Moreover, he is also a co-author of “Section 295 C, Pakistan Penal Code – Study of the History, Effects and Cases under Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan.”

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