Islamabad: Aasia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, broke down in her prison cell and wept inconsolably when she learnt of the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the liberal politician who had visited her in jail and demanded that she be pardoned.
"She kept crying throughout the day. She kept saying. ``That man came here and he sacrificed his life for me``," The Independent quoted a prison source, as saying.
"She said: ``I know that everything that has happened is because of me. I know in my heart of hearts, that person came here for me and what I feel now, no one else can feel``," the source added.
Aasia’s husband, Ashiq Masih, who is living in hiding, fearful for his life, echoed her grief, saying: “[When Salmaan Taseer visited], both of us felt very happy after the meeting and we were hopeful that she was going to be set free.”
"Now, the [Punjab] Governor has given his life. It’s a huge sacrifice," he added.
Since she was first accused of blasphemy in 2009, Aasia has been held in an isolation unit within Sheikhpura prison. But after Taseer’s own bodyguard killed him on Tuesday, and Aasia’s case was subsequently thrust ever deeper into the public consciousness, a guard has been placed directly outside her 8ft by 10ft cell to provide additional, round-the-clock protection, the report said.
She is allowed out of cell No 2 for two hours a day to exercise, but is prevented from meeting or speaking with other prisoners, purportedly for her own well-being, it added.
"We just try and treat her like any other prisoner," said prison superintendent, Khalid Sheikh.
Aasia’s husband, who has three other children from an earlier marriage, has supported his wife since her incarceration, moving his family to a single-room house located at little more than a mile from the jail. But within hours of Taseer`s assassination, and amid mounting concerns from other Christians about their own safety, Masih was forced to flee and go into hiding and use an assumed identity.
Speaking on mobile phone, he said that even if Aasia were cleared by the appeal process, they would no longer feel safe living in Pakistan.
"We are feeling very scared and we feel it will never be safe for us in Pakistan," said Masih.
"I get my strength from Jesus Christ and I am hopeful that he is going to save my wife. But now the circumstances have changed. We will have to wait and see what happens," he added.