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Fears grow for Asia Bibi after hardliners force Pak-Government to stiffen blasphemy law procedure

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After a countrywide siege led by Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (Movement to Obey the Prophet [TYLRA] ) brought the nation of Pakistan to a violent standstill (click here), nothing could have surprised international onlookers more, then the feeble surrender by the Government of Pakistan to the wholly Islamist demands of the rioters.

TLYRA's radical cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, surely could not believe his luck when on Monday 30th November 2017, he sat in a room with the Prime Minister of Pakistan Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the Chief of Pakistan's secret services (Inter Services Intelligence [ISI] ),Major General Faiz Hameed, in which they all signed an agreement to the terms laid out by his group of zealots, His group TYLRA had only formed 2 years earlier in Karachi but have gained popularity on the back of the public hanging of Mumtaz Qadri who murdered former Governor of Pakistan Salman Taseer. The group has condemned what they deem to be the murder of a Muslim saint (Mr Qadri) and are calling for no changes to be allowed to the blasphemy law and for the gradual elimination of any Pakistani laws outside the remit of Sharia. To the detriment to the nation of Pakistan it seems like they are winning.

So what exactly has the Government of Pakistan agreed to?

The signed affidavit contained the following conditions:

Primarily this document agrees to the remove the Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid from his position immediately. If this is done "Tehreek-i-Labaik will issue no fatwa [religious decree] of any kind against him."

The report prepared by Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee will be made public within 30 days and whoever is named in the report for being responsible for the change in the election oath will be acted against under the law.

All protesters arrested between November 6 until the end of the sit-in from across the country will be released within one to three days according to legal requirements. The cases registered against them and the house arrests imposed on them will be ended.

An inquiry board will be established to probe and decide what action to take against the government and administration officials over the operation conducted by security forces against protesters on Saturday, November 25. The inquiry should be completed within 30 days and action will be taken against those found responsible.

The federal and provincial governments will determine and compensate for the loss of government and private assets incurred from November 6 until the end of the sit-in.

The points already agreed to concerning the Government of Punjab will be fully implemented.

The document ends by crediting Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and his representative team for their "special efforts" that led to the agreement being signed.
"We are thankful to him [General Bajwa] for saving the nation from a big catastrophe," the document concludes.

Already commentators have expressed their disgust at the manner in which the ISI seemed to give their tacit approval to a meeting that culminated in the signing of a document that undermines an elected government.  Worse still the statement of thanks to General Bajwa commander of Pakistan's army suggests his collusion with the protesters in an act that is tantamount to treason in truly democratic nations. The army should never been a position of arbitrator between rioters and government.  The politically powerful army of Pakistan advised the Government that 'It was not in the national interest to use violence against protesters' and demanded they seek a 'peaceful solution' through spokesperson for the forces Major General Asif Ghafoor.  An act of defiance that many commentators believe may be nascent to a military coup - especially as one is well overdue. I will explain that comment, before the last election when PML -N defeated PPP no previous consecutive election for Government had taken place. Each elected government had been proceeded by a military dictator and it would now seem the current military elite are working towards justification of a return to the 'old system'

What most commentators have failed to recognise yet, is that innocent victims such as Asia Bibi are now almost certain to be hanged under the blasphemy charges they have found themselves falsely accused of. Asia Bibi, a mother of five, is  Pakistan's most famous blasphemy victim. On a hot day she offered water to other women working in the field with her, but since Christians are considered "kafirs" they accused and berated her for "defiling" the water. After they began disparaging Jesus Christ Asia Bibi innocently inquired, "My Christ died for me. What did Muhammed do for you?" More violence followed and any politician attempting to intervene has been assassinated. It is unimaginable that any Supreme Court judge will be wiling to exonerate Asia Bibi.  In the current socio-political climate, saying the words that set Asia Bibi free would mean certain death.

Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA, said:

"Poor Asia has now suffered several years of isolation and brutality and has been forced to cook her own food to thwart various attempts to poison  her. We have been advised that she is in poor health and that the years of being alone are affecting her sanity.  Even then she prays daily and seeks the prayers of other Christians.

"An attempt to expedite her Supreme Court appeal was rejected in April and the only purpose I can see for the year long delay in setting her appeal date is a low appetite for justice, in a nation that is becoming increasingly intolerant as time progresses.

"Asia Bibi may never see freedom on this earth and she may even be hung by a Pak-Government or a dictatorship, as more and more both authorities are visibly pampering to the whims of the highly radicalised population in Pakistan.  Her one consolation will be martyrs crown that awaits her in heaven for being a 'good and faithful servant.'

"If one thing is clear about Pakistan now more then at any other time since the creation of the theocratic Islamic republic of Pakistan, it is that minorities have no place in the future of Pakistan. Every new year brings about new horror stories and accounts of great persecution.  Even then the Christian and other minority communities continue to struggle on knowing full well the next martyr may be them."

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