Zardari may pardon woman sentenced to death for `blasphemy`

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer examined the woman`s case & found no incident of blasphemy.

Last Updated: Nov 20, 2010, 21:38 PM IST

Lahore: President Asif Ali Zardari may
pardon a Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for
allegedly committing blasphemy, amid growing outrage in the
country and abroad.

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer today said he was
hopeful that the President will pardon the 45-year-old Aasia
Bibi who was sentenced to death by an additional district and
sessions court last week for allegedly making derogatory
remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

Taseer met the mother of five children in Punjab`s
Sheikupura district jail, where she is being held after her
sentencing last week, and got her to sign a clemency petition
that will be sent to the President.

The Governor said Aasia Bibi had made an appeal for
clemency and he was hopeful that the President would grant her
a pardon.

"The President has powers under the constitution to
grant such a pardon," he told the media at the jail.

Taseer said he had examined the woman`s case and
believed there was no incident of blasphemy.

"She is a poor helpless woman who had no legal
defence. She does not even have the resources to help
herself," he said.

Aasia Bibi has denied the charge and said she was
framed because of an earlier dispute with some residents of
her village.

"A fake FIR was filed against me due to an old
dispute. I am uneducated and can`t even think of committing
blasphemy," Aasia Bibi, wearing a veil, told reporters at the
jail.
There has been an outcry from Pakistani civil society
groups over the death sentence given to the Christian woman -
the first such case in a country where legal experts say
blasphemy laws are routinely misused to harass minority
communities. The case has drawn appeals from Pope Benedict XVI
and international human rights groups to free her.

In Aasia Bibi`s case, police arrested her after a
complaint of blasphemy was registered against her by a Muslim
cleric in June 2009.

Her lawyer S K Shahid said he had filed an appeal
against the sentence in the Lahore High Court. Besides
sentencing Aasia Bibi to death, the judge imposed a fine of Rs
300,000 on her.

Shahid said the court proceeding took place under
"intense pressure".

He added: "Local residents would gather outside the
court and shout slogans to pressure the judge."

Experts say a majority of blasphemy cases are filed to settle "personal scores".

PTI