Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - “We are sad and worried. We miss Asia so much. My children are crying and look for her every day. Today we leading a threatened life: we are being targeted by extremist groups, and we fear for our lives. We are ready to leave for Italy or for America, as soon as Asia is freed,” Fides was told in an exclusive interview with Ashiq Masih, husband of Asia Bibi. He could be reached in Lahore thanks to the Masih Foundation, the NGO that is handling the protection of Asia Bibi's family and providing legal assistance for her. The following is the interview of Ashiq Masih by Fides:
Mr Ashiq, what are your feelings today? And how are your children?
We are very sad and troubled by this absurd affair. We are missing Asia a lot, especially the four children (a fifth daughter of the couple is married, ed). They feel her absence. They cry and ask about their mother every day, wanting her to come home. The Masih Foundation is working for us and we thank them for their support.
When did you last see Asia? And what did she say to you?
I saw her yesterday, Tuesday, in prison. I found her depressed and very concerned for family and her children. She is an innocent woman who has been in prison for over a year. She would like this story to be over.
Do you have confidence in the institutions in Pakistan?
Thanks to the Masih Foundation we are going through all the necessary legal steps for Asia's case and for our protection. The President and the Government are interested in our case, realizing that Asia is innocent and they have expressed concern, but they are under pressure from extremist Islamic groups. We will act according to law. We will move forward with this process.
Have you received threats?
Many radical Islamic militants are threatening us. Many of them are looking for us. We live in a safe place, but in constant fear for our lives.
Are you ready to leave the Country?
We are ready to do that as soon as Asia is released, and hopefully that will happen soon. If we have the opportunity to move to Italy or America, we will do it without delay. Today we are very concerned about the education of the children and their future.
What would you say to the Holy Father who has launched an appeal for Asia?
We thank him warmly and we want to express our complete affection. We are extremely happy and heartened by the appeal he launched for us, for his attention to Asia's case and to all Christians who suffer in 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 Masih 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)