A Pakistani Supreme Court judge presiding over the lawsuit of Asia Bibi – a Christian sentenced to death for allegedly blaspheming the Islamic Prophet Mohammad – has suddenly quit the case evidently due to his fear of being attacked by Muslim mobs.
The mother of five – who was sentenced to be executed back in 2010 after former colleagues accused her of blasphemy – is now in courtroom limbo after the senior judge appointed to preside over her case suddenly resigned. This happened just weeks after the hearing of her final appeal took place.
A Pakistani Christian group reporting on the recent development brought to attention the hatred that local Islamic groups across the country have for Christians, who they consider to be “infidels” and deserving of death.
According to the local Pakistani media, Justice Iqbal Hameed recused himself from the case earlier this month – citing no specific reason – so he would not have to decide whether or not Bibi should be executed for her alleged violation of Islamic law.
British Pakistani Christian Association Chairman Wilson Chowdhry contends that Pakistan’s Supreme Court justice recused himself to avoid the consequences of submitting to the demands of militant Muslims in the area.
"Mr Hameed did not want to face the outright condemnation that people in the West would have for his sentencing of Asia Bibi to death by hanging," Chowdhry announced on the website of his organization. “[His resignation] illustrates the power of extremists who are the real authority in Pakistan."
The extremists Chowdhry mentioned were violent Islamic mobs who made demands and threats to ensure that Bibi was executed, according to Sharia law.
Hameed notified court officials earlier this month that he was abstaining from Bibi’s hearing.
"I was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salmaan Taseer, and this case is related to that," the justice announced, according to The Christian Post.
It is believed by many that Hameed turned in his resignation because he did not want to go against any demands and end up dead, like Taseer.
“Taseer was a Pakistani businessman and politician who served as the governor of the province of Punjab until his assassination by his own bodyguard after he publicly criticized the country's blasphemy laws referring to Bibi's case,” The Christian Post reports.
Staying alive … for now
Chowdhry is fearful that if Bibi is not executed as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, Islamic militants will make sure that she is killed through premeditated and covert schemes.
"Every day that passes, I fear that she will either be killed in custody and that her death will be masked as a natural death, or that she will finally fail her Supreme Court hearing – as this would be the most popular decision in a country riven with hate," Chowdhry wrote on his website. "Sadly, that position is even held by much of the Judiciary (officials) who have also been blinded by the hate agenda promulgated through media and the education system in Pakistan."
The price for not submitting to Islam
Due to just two accusations made against her by Muslims, Bibi was taken to court six years ago, where a ruling was issued to end her life for reportedly disrespecting Islam’s foremost prophet.
“Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 on allegations of blasphemy after two co-workers accused her of insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad,” The Christian Post’s Anugrah Kumar informed. “In July, Pakistan's Supreme Court set a date in October for the 51-year-old Asia Bibi's final appeal hearing to determine whether she will be executed or not.”
The allegations arose in the Pakistani town of Sheikhupura in Punjab province back in June 2009, when Bibi inadvertently drew the anger and wrath of a group of women with whom she was picking berries.
“The women got upset that she drank from the same water bowl as them,” Kumar recounted. “An argument ensued, and the women went to [the] police and accused her of saying something along the lines of ‘My Christ died for me … what did Muhammad do for you?’"
Soon after the complaint was registered with local authorities, Bibi was arrested.
Chowdhry reports that numerous Islamic groups participate in nationwide protests on a daily basis in order to prompt and intimidate local authorities and Supreme Court justices to expedite Bibi’s death sentence and ensure her prompt execution.
"I believe Asia Bibi's only real hope for freedom lies with a presidential pardon,” Chowdhry expressed. “Never before has this constitutional power been utilized, and it will take great bravery for President Mamnoon Hussain to make the right decision.”
He urges Christians around the world contact Pakistani officials and demand that justice prevails in the high court so that Bibi’s life might be spared.
“That said, the more international pressure that can be placed on the Government of Pakistan, the more likely Asia will be set free," Chowdhry concluded.