By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Christian mother of five, who faces execution by hanging on charges of “blasphemy” against Islam, is recovering in her Pakistani jail Monday, October 17, after she was allegedly attacked by a prison officer.
Asia Noreen, also known as Asia Bibi, was reportedly “attacked and tortured” in the high security Sheikhupura District Jail of Pakistan’s Punjab province “and she became unconscious,” said well-informed Nazir S. Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) party.
Bibi was allegedly beaten by a Muslim officer known for her anti-Christian bias while other staff members looked on.
After the October 5 incident the prison officer, identified only as Khadeeja, was suspended for for three months, Christians said. Jail Superintendent Sheikh Khalid also announced an inquiry as an intelligence agency reported the incident to Punjab’s government.
Bhatti said however that PCC has “expressed grave concern about the safety of Asia Bibi,” who is awaiting an appeal hearing at the Lahore High Court against a death sentence for blasphemy under controversial legislation criticized by rights groups.
“There have been cases of killing of blasphemy accused Christians in Sialkot, Lahore and Karachi jails which were declared suicides by authorities…It was already feared by PCC that Asia Bibi can be also killed in jail,” Bhatti said.
Bhatti said he has urged Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari to “adopt necessary measures to [keep] Asia Bibi safe in jail and punish jail officer who attacked and tortured her.”
He also accused the Lahore High Court of delaying her appeal hearing amid pressure from hardline Muslims. There was no response from court officials. “If the judiciary of Pakistan is reluctant to hear the appeal of Asia Bibi because they Islamists then Pakistan must be declared a failed state by the UN,” added Bhatti
Asia Bibi, a farm worker, was detained in 2009 on charges of defiling the name of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad during an argument with Muslim co-workers. She has denied wrongdoing.
Two senior officials, Pakistan’s only known Christian government minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab province governor Salman Taseer, were assassinated this year for opposing the blasphemy legislation.
Christians comprise less than 5 percent of Pakistan’s over 187 million people who are mainly Muslim, according to estimates by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Rights groups say the blasphemy legislation has often been misused to settle personal scores and by Islamic militants to target Christians.