Pakistan: Muslims warn of “terrible consequences” if Christian “blasphemer” is shown any “softness”

Asia Bibi is back in the news. The “mother of four, in 2010 became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.” Her recent appeal hearing was postponed. Now, a so-called “hard-line Islamist group” has warned of “terrible consequences” if she is shown any mercy:

The ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which makes punishing blasphemy its main campaign rallying cry and lionizes the bodyguard who killed Taseer, warned the court against any “concession or softness” for Bibi.

Meanwhile, as Christians in Pakistan call for prayer for Asia Bibi, “Muslims are calling for riots.”

Pakistan tries to give the impression that “ultra-religious” groups are an exception, when in fact, such groups are a welcome part of the landscape in that country. Its new prime minister Imran Khan has vowed to “take the matter of blasphemy to the United Nations, saying that few in the West understand the pain caused to Muslims by such activities.”

Also in Pakistan, its blasphemy law is used as a weapon to persecute Christians. Asia Bibi is one such victim, and has suffered for eight years in prison under the threat of death.

“Pakistan Islamists warn of ‘terrible consequences’ of blasphemy appeal”, by Saad Sayeed and Drazen Jorgic, Reuters, October 8, 2018:

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A hardline Pakistani Islamist group has warned of “terrible consequences” if a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy is granted leniency in an appeal heard on Monday, a case that has drawn global headlines and indignation.

Asia Bibi, a mother of four, in 2010 became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.

She appealed to the Supreme Court which concluded proceedings on Monday but reserved its judgment. The court did not specify when it would announce a ruling.

Her case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help Bibi were assassinated, including Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot by his own bodyguard.

The ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which makes punishing blasphemy its main campaign rallying cry and lionizes the bodyguard who killed Taseer, warned the court against any “concession or softness” for Bibi.

“If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences,” TLP said in a statement.

Insulting Islam’s prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions that they are almost impossible to defend against. Dozens have been killed following blasphemy claims, sometimes by mobs of men.

TLP won more than two million votes in the July 25 elections, though it has no parliamentarians in the National Assembly and only holds two provincial seats. But it wields outsized influence due to street power of its die-hard supporters.

In November, TLP staged a crippling blockade of the capital after a tweak to a religious oath, which it claims was tantamount to blasphemy. Seven people were killed and more than 200 wounded in clashes with the police and TLP’s supporters only dispersed after striking a deal with the military.

In May, an extremist linked to TLP shot and wounded Pakistan’s then-Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

Bibi was sentenced to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Bibi has always denied blaspheming and her representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbors and that her accusers had contradicted themselves….

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