ASIA/PAKISTAN - Conflict between President and Magistrate in the case of Asia Bibi

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – There is conflict between the powers of State as to the case of Asia Bibi in Pakistan, particularly between the President and the Magistrate. Today a spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari responded to the statement of the Lahore High Court, claiming the prerogative and powers of the President. The Court, responding to the petition of some lawyers, had asked the president not to grant the pardon before the conclusion of the three stages of proceedings. Zardari said that the High Court has no jurisdiction over his duties and, under Article 45 of the Constitution, the President may at any time decide to grant a pardon. The Supreme Court of Pakistan, with a statement of “its motion” (ie, of their own initiative) has confirmed this interpretation, noting that only the Supreme Court may give binding instructions to the Government or the President.

According to Fides sources, it now seems certain that the appeal process will take place and that President Zardari - who also is under pressure from extremists - will wait to certify the process and duration, before intervening with any eventual pardon.

Meanwhile, the voices of controversy continue on the debate over the case of Asia Bibi. Some radical Islamic leaders have said openly that they “could give the order to kill her” if she is released or if a court declares her innocent. Fides was told, “This position puts the life of Asia and her family in serious danger,” by Haroon Barket Masih, a Pakistani Christian living in London, President of the Masihi Foundation that is helping the family and giving legal aid to Asia.

“We are providing free legal advice at the highest level and we are confident in the outcome of a retrial and acquittal, even if the legal system is often tainted by corruption. We fear however that, even during the process, Asia may be killed by radical militants, as happened in other cases of Christians tried for blasphemy.” As to Asia Bibi's case, “There are now too many speculations. There are people who are trying to politicize it for personal advantage,” notes Haroon Barket Masih. He states: “As Asia has become a symbol, and therefore a legitimate target for extremists, probably we will be forced to take her and her family abroad. We have received proposals from America and Italy.” (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/11/2010)

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