In the midst of all the bad news and injustice, the recent release from prison of Rubina Bibi, mother of three, confirmed that the first step of long-awaited journey has been taken. Her earlier arrest in Gujranwala district under blasphemy charges was not unexpected; in fact, the blasphemy charge is one of the most commonly used excuses of exploitation and persecution against the minorities in Pakistan. The anti-blasphemy law has legal protection and the flaws in it have facilitated the process of making innocent people guilty. Any accusation of defaming the Prophet (PBUH) and “defiling the Quran” sufficient to settle personal disputes, old rivalries, and expressing prejudice towards the minorities. The recent killing of two Christian brothers outside a court in Faisalabad on blasphemy charges exposed the fact that extremists do not wait for judgments but prefer taking the law in their own hands. International human rights organistaions like Human Rights Watch along with local organisations like Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) have started a campaign to repeal the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. It is a tool in hands of extremist forces which is always used against innocent and weak people and communities. On hearing the word “blasphemy”, all logic and arguments disappear and a blind faith in the veracity of the alleged crime takes over.
The arrest of Rubina Bibi was another such case where the fear of persecution of her whole family was constantly alive. But the court’s decision has given her a new lease of life and hope to millions of people from other religions. It is the defeat of those extremist elements in the society which make life almost impossible for minorities. It is a victory of all those who have always raised their voice against this persecution and injustice. It is the beginning of a long journey not only for her but also for minorities and civil society in Pakistan.
Below is the story:
Judge acquits young mother charged with blasphemy in Pakistan
August 12, 2010, Christian Today
A judge has cleared a young mother of blasphemy charges in a major victory for persecuted Christians in Pakistan. Mother of three Rubina Bibi, 25, was accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad by a Muslim shopkeeper in Alipur Chattah, Gujranwala district, in March. She was arrested days later and imprisoned along with her youngest son.
She faced the death penalty if found guilty but session judge Mohammad Asghar Khan cleared her of wrongdoing during a lengthy hearing on Wednesday, where she was represented by Christian lawyers Joseph Francis and Tahir Bashir Gull.
The case was brought before the session judge after the lower district judge came under pressure from extremist groups and security at the hearing was tight following the recent murder of two Christian brothers outside a Faisalabad courthouse. Pastors Emmanuel and Sajid Masih, both accused of committing blasphemy, had just left a hearing when they were shot dead by masked gunmen, despite being under police escort.
Rubina was released from prison with her son on Thursday. She is the third person in Alipur Chattah to be accused of blasphemy. In 1999, Hussain Masih and his son Isaac were arrested for blasphemy. The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement represented them during their trial and the charges were eventually overturned by a judge.
CLAAS also supported Rubina and her family throughout their ordeal. They have been moved to an undisclosed location for their safety out of concerns that her accusers or disgruntled extremists may seek reprisals for her acquittal.
Despite lingering security concerns, Joseph Francis, Director of CLAAS Pakistan, said it was a great outcome not only for Rubina but for all Christians in Pakistan. He said: “This was yet another example of an innocent Christian being sent to jail and having their world turned upside down because a false accusation of blasphemy. Rubina should have never been charged in the first place and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome of this case.
“Given the recent murders of Christians accused of blasphemy, the legal team has also taken significant personal risks to see justice done and we are grateful that the trial concluded without anyone’s safety being compromised.
“We know this victory could only be gained through the prayers of many Christians around the world. As Rubina’s life remains in danger, we ask that you continue to hold her and her family in your prayers.”
Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS UK, said: “The last six months have been a terrible ordeal for Rubina. She faced the death penalty for a crime she did not commit but we are overjoyed that the judge had the sense to clear her and that the case ended in victory in a relatively short time – it is not uncommon for blasphemy cases to drag on for years. We are grateful to everybody who has been praying for her release.”
CLAAS said it would continue to raise awareness about the misuse of the blasphemy laws against Christians and other religious minorities. It is calling on the Pakistani government to repeal the blasphemy laws.