A Pakistani court condemns a woman to life in jail for destroying Quranic pages.

Lahore: A Pakistani court has sentenced a woman to life imprisonment after finding her guilty of burning the pages of the Holy Quran, according to a prosecutor. The woman was punished under Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, under which a person found guilty of insulting Islam or religious figures can be sentenced to death, and sometimes the accused are lynched by radical mobs.
Government prosecutor Mohazib Awais said the woman, Aasiya Bibi, was arrested in 2021 on blasphemy charges after residents claimed she desecrated the Quran by burning its pages. Awais said the judge announced the verdict Wednesday in the eastern city of Lahore. Bibi, who has the right to appeal, had denied the charge during her trial, said the prosecutor.

This is reminiscent of a Christian woman of the same name, who was acquitted of blasphemy in 2019 after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan. That woman had to relocate to Canada to escape death threats from Islamic extremists upon her release.

Pak student sentenced to death over ‘blasphemous’ messages
In a bizarre development, a court in Pakistan has sentenced a 22-year-old to death on the charges of blasphemy over WhatsApp messages earlier this month. The court in Pakistan’s Punjab province said the student shared blasphemous pictures and videos with the intention to outrage the religious feelings of Muslims, according to a report by BBC.

A 17-year-old was sentenced to life imprisonment in the same case, and both of the accused have denied any wrongdoing. The complaint was filed in 2022 by the cybercrime unit of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Lahore and later referred to a local court in Gujranwala. In the final ruling, the judges said the 22-year-old was sentenced to death for preparing photos and videos that contained derogatory words about Prophet Muhammad and his wives.

The plaintiff had alleged he had received the videos and photos from three different mobile phone numbers. Pakistan’s FIA said that it had examined the student’s phone and established that “obscene material” had been sent to him. Meanwhile, defence lawyers argued that the two students had been “trapped in a false case”.

Blasphemy in Pakistan
Prior to this, a teenage girl wearing an Arabic print shirt had to be saved by Pakistan police in Lahore from a charged mob accusing her of blasphemy. The incident raised a storm within the Pakistani Senate as several lawmakers called for strict action against those levelling “false charges of blasphemy” and slammed “ignorance”.

Notably, domestic and international human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and to settle personal scores. Many religious minorities in Pakistan, including Christians and Hindus, have been frequently subjected to blasphemy allegations and have been tried and sentenced under the country’s strict blasphemy law. Accusations of blasphemy provoke people into taking matters into their own hands and embolden ‘mob justice’ which has claimed several lives.

The 2023 report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that Pakistan’s religious freedom conditions had continued to deteriorate since last year. “Religious minorities were subject to frequent attacks and threats, including accusations of blasphemy, targeted killings, lynchings, mob violence, forced conversions, sexual violence against women and girls, and desecration of houses of worship and cemeteries,” it said.

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