LHC overstepped in barring Zardari from pardoning blasphemy-accused Christian: HRW

New York, Dec 3 (ANI): The Lahore High Court's order to bar President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy, contravenes Pakistan's constitution and should be withdrawn immediately, an international human rights organisation Watch has said.

"The Lahore high court has overstepped its constitutional authority by preventing President Zardari from pardoning Aasia Bibi, who was unjustly convicted under a discriminatory law," said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"The court has blocked Zardari from promptly correcting a cruel wrong and instead has disgraced Pakistan's judiciary," he added.

Aasia Bibi was charged under the blasphemy law after a June 2009 altercation with fellow farm workers who refused to drink water she had touched, contending it was "unclean" because she was Christian. On November 8, the Sheikhupura District Court found her guilty, ruling that there were "no mitigating circumstances."

However, following domestic and international outrage over the sentence, the Pakistan president ordered a review of the case, and a ministerial inquiry concluded on November 25 that the district court verdict was legally unsound.

But the Lahore High Court in Punjab province issued an order on November 29, 2010, barring Zardari from exercising his constitutional authority to pardon Aasia.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for repealing of the blasphemy law and other discriminatory provisions in Pakistan's penal code.

"Not only do those charged under the blasphemy law suffer persecution, it is evident the ill effects of discriminatory laws are compounded by unsympathetic courts," said Hasan. (ANI)

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