Pakistan: Aasia and Aafia – The Tale Of Two Pakistani Women

At a time when the whole world is deeply shaken and concerned over Aasia Bibi’s death sentence on charges of blasphemy, Pakistanis are equally taken aback by this controversial case. It reminds the nation of Dr. Aafia and both the cases are being compared by the citizens as well as the Pakistani media. As both negate the concepts of equality and justice.

Reportedly several Pakistanis find themselves equally concerned over the case of Aasia Bibi (a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy) the same way as they are distressed over the detention of Aafia Siddiqui (imprisoned for 86 years in USA jail). But it is unfortunate to note that the message of hatred is always spread across the world at a rapid rate than the message of harmony.

As Harris Khalique writes in his column

“Today, Pakistani Muslims who live in an insecure state and a fragmented society, oscillate between two ends – Aafia Siddiqui and Aasia Bibi. It is hugely difficult to have an objective assessment of Aafia Siddiqui’s case in public. How many politicians or opinion leaders have the courage to step out, when everyone is asking for her release by US authorities.”

I wrote earlier in Pakistan Observer on this issue:

Aasia Bibi, 45, a mother of five, a Pakistani Christian, was arrested for blasphemy. She has been in prison for one and a half years and on November 8, 2010, a local court sentenced to hang for defaming Prophet Mohammad under blasphemy laws.

In a report delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday, Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti recommended that Aasia Bibi, be pardoned or released from prison if her pending court appeal is not quickly addressed. The Minister has also suggested amendments to the nation's controversial blasphemy law.

The report followed calls for clemency by Pope Benedict XVI, human rights groups, newspapers and the governor of the province where Bibi was convicted, becoming the first woman condemned to hanging for blasphemy.

While rationally comparing the case of Aasia Bibi with the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, one may find it totally different from the other but several Pakistani citizens and human rights activists believe that the two cases are no different as both deals with inequality, injustice and unfair rules of the societies.

Ahmed Quraishi, a public policy writer commented,

“Aasia Bibi is our sister and needs our help against a fake case. But the champions of her case must be Muslim scholars who know how tolerant and open-minded Islam is truly.”

He also pointed fingers towards the state’s silence and of many government officials who want to abolish the blasphemy law now but they never uttered a word against the injustice done to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

According to Express Tribune Editorial,

“Minorities are increasingly under pressure from the mischief of this deeply-flawed law and there is no one who would agitate the way some of us are agitating for the release of Aafia Siddiqi from an American jail.”

Farrukh Khan Pitafi writes in Daily Times

“Let me also remind you that I am one of the few liberal writers who called Dr Aafia Siddiqui the daughter of this nation. How on earth do you even begin to think that Aasia Bibi is not?”

Pressure mounts on President Asif Ali Zardari to weigh in on the fate of a Christian woman recently sentenced to death for blasphemy as the case has drawn the attention of the international community and has sparked street protests in the country.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been condemned globally from the time it was formulated. Pope Benedict XVI last week called for Bibi’s release and said Christians in Pakistan were “often victims of violence and discrimination.”
Comments of several Pakistanis condemning the blasphemy law and supporting Aasia just like Aafia proves the rational thinking of Pakistanis.

Condemning the extreme blasphemy law, Farrukh writes that,

“First, any such law where the state expresses partiality towards any faith is counterproductive for democracy and human rights. Second, I implore all those who contend that it is an Islamic law to first show us the grounds for it in the Holy Quran. If they cannot, they need to realise that it is counterproductive to the spirit and interest of Islam too. Last, as long as there is a blasphemy law, it will keep polarising society and thereby creating new grounds for the abuse of the law.”

What we need to realize is that “humanity is above all laws” and the nations who do not respect humanity are forced to face severe consequences.

As Mahtab bashir, a Pakistani journalist points out in his post titled ‘Aasia Bibi, Blasphemy and Chief Justice’

“The social attitudes, prejudiced laws and intolerant world views that breed in our society need to be thrown into the rubbish tip of history. The Blasphemy Law must be repealed. Pakistanis must be made to realise that religious zeal that condones murder and indifference towards the faith and beliefs of others will relegate us to the Dark Ages if we do not reverse these terrifying trends.”

Many Pakistanis also believe that the blasphemy law is not genuinely in accordance with Islamic values and teachings as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the foremost advocate of tolerance, justice and equality.

As Ayesha Siddiqa reminds us in her column titled “Sacrifice at the altar of pragmatism”

“The fact of the matter is that bigotry and intolerance has sunk into our society and state institutions. At the end of the day, this is not about religion but about using religion to gain greater power to molest the powerless. We have long forgotten the tradition of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) who showed tolerance and mercy towards a non-Muslim woman known for throwing garbage at him. The story is that he went to inquire after her health when she didn’t show up to do her usual act. Sadly, we are incapable of applying such tolerance because our scholars, leaders, thinkers and judges are blinded by political pragmatism and lust for power.”

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