Asia Bibi, prisoner of fanaticism


"By choosing to defend Asia Bibi, I knew that one day I would have to leave my country for security reasons. But I did not think it would be without her, entrusted from the Netherlands his lawyer, Saif Ul Malook. Threatened with death, he had to go into exile on Saturday, under the pressure of foreign diplomats.

For a week, the case of this illiterate peasant, sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy, ignites again Pakistan. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman aged about 40 and mother of two, was accused by her neighbors of having soiled a well with a drink. The villagers then accused him of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, an offense considered in Pakistan as the ultimate crime and punishable by death in the name of "anti-blasphemy laws".

Inherited from British colonization, these laws, reactivated and hardened in the 1980s by dictator Zia-ul-Haq, became a deadly weapon for Islamists, for whom anyone defending a suspect of blasphemy deserves punishment himself. For Saif Ul Malook, "the problem is not these laws, but their diversion for personal purposes ".

After years of proceedings, the Supreme Court, Pakistan's highest court, handed down its verdict in the Asia Bibi case on Wednesday (October 31st), concluding "Empty folder" and to "False accusations". Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who was in 2010 head of office in Islamabad for France 2 and France 24 and freelancer for Releasehad taken up the cause of the peasant woman sent to death row and made her case known all over the world.

"The whole story is part of a dispute with the first wife of her husband who had never admitted his remarriage, explains the journalist, author of Death is not a solution (2015, edition of the Rock). The story of Asia Bibi allowed to incarnate the ravages that these laws antiblasphème which maintain in terror the Pakistani civil society. His case became a state affair in 2011 when the Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, who had defended him, was murdered by his bodyguard. " A few months later, Minister of Religious Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was killed in turn.

"A tool of discrimination of minorities"

Charges of blasphemy are common in Pakistan and mostly affect Muslims, including Shiites. But as noted in Release Wilson Chowdhry, President of the Pakistan Christian Defense Association of Great Britain, "they are also used as a tool of discrimination of the most vulnerable citizens, since 15% of the lawsuits are against Christians, who represent only 1.3% of the population. As long as textbooks continue to fuel minority hatred, this mentality will not change. "

Read also : Pakistani justice hostage to fanaticism

As early as 2010, the Pakistani Taliban warned that if Asia Bibi was acquitted, "She would be killed." The verdict of the Supreme Court, which states that those who wrongly accuse someone of blasphemy can now be prosecuted, set fire to the powder. "The judges have established new evidentiary rules in these cases. This is a positive step forward for the future, welcomes Saif Ul Malook.

A small Sufi and ultraviolet party, Tehreek-e-Labaik, has called for blocking the country. Joined by crowds convinced that the honor of the prophet was at stake, the demonstrators paralyzed highways and major cities, plunging Pakistan into chaos for three days, the telephone networks cut, without the powerful army intervenes.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, elected this summer, who had called, in a historic televised speech, to respect the verdict and not to listen "Those who do not serve Islam" for some "Political reasons", had to yield Saturday. An agreement has been reached with the Islamists. The government has begun releasing prisoners from the Tehreek-e-Labaik, has pledged not to oppose an appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court and to let justice consider a possible ban on leaving the country. Asia Bibi. For the time being, the Christian remains in prison, where she is most secure.

The agreement, qualified "masquerade" by the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, and criticized right up to the government, brought about a relative calm. Legal proceedings are being launched to put released prisoners back in prison, and Islamists threaten to return to the streets. Asia Bibi's husband, who is still in Pakistan, has applied for asylum abroad for her family, threatened with death. Tuesday evening, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced that the capital was ready to welcome them. "When I saw her for the last time, on October 10, Asia Bibi was very strong, mentally and physically, says his lawyer. Her family is well, she's waiting to finally live better in the West. "

To read also, the political letter of Laurent Joffrin: Asia Bibi, martyr of sharia

Laurence Defranoux



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