Three European Parliament Members have visited senior Pakistani government officials and the family of Asia Bibi, the Christian mother-of-five on death row, in a bid to change the country’s controversial blasphemy legislation.
Dutch MEP Peter van Dalen told the Christian news website BosLifeNews that he and colleagues from Poland and Slovakia discussed with Pakistan’s Minister for Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid, “our proposals to change the blasphemy laws”.
“As a first step, we want to see an end to the massive misuse of the legislation. One way to do that is to prosecute those who make false accusations in the same way as the [falsely] accused [person],” he added.
Asia Bibi, 48, has been in prison since 2009 when she was accused of blasphemy after an argument with some Muslim co-workers. She was charged with blasphemy and a lower court sentenced her to death by hanging in 2010. She appealed but her appearance before Pakistan’s Supreme Court was adjourned amid protests.
However the Dutch MEP told BosLifeNews that despite her long ordeal her lawyer reported to him that she “is both mentally and physically in good condition – it’s a miracle”.
He said that lawyers from the Human Rights Commission in Lahore told the delegation that Pakistan’s Supreme Court “has often rejected verdicts by [lower] regional courts”. He continued: “If that’s the outcome in Asia Bibi’s case it would mean that pressure from the United States and the European Union has worked.”
Van Dalen added that the EU and businesspeople continue to pay for Asia Bibi’s defence efforts. He said the Catholic Archbishop of Lahore, Sebastian Shaw, told him: “In part because of the attention from the EU, things start to change here small step by small step. But it can and should go better and faster.”
He urged the government of Pakistan to “improve education, oppose intolerance and strengthen the economy”.
During their visit the trio spoke to Asia Bibi’s lawyer, parliamentarians, and activists. They were then driven 400km in armoured vehicles to the home of Asia Bibi’s family in Lahore to hear from her husband and children. Van Dalen, who represents the Dutch ChristenUnion-SGP faction, travelled with Catholic parliamentarians Tomasz Poreba from Poland and Slovakia’s Branislav Skripek, who chairs the European Christian Political Movement.