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Zardari stays execution of blasphemy accused Pak-Christian woman

By Abdul Nisar

Islamabad, Nov 20 (ANI): Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has stayed the execution of a Christian mother sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy.

On Friday, Zardari directed the federal minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, to submit a report in this regard within three days, The News reported.

The lawyer for the accused, SK Shahid, has already challenged the verdict in the Lahore High Court.

Earlier, a religious leader of the local mosque, Qari Saleem, had lodged an FIR against her for allegedly passing derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet.

On November 8, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by an additional sessions judge in Nankana Sahib district on charges of committing blasphemy under the Pakistan Penal Code. The judge also imposed a fine of 300,000 rupees on her.

The case has drawn huge attention in the media, and there is deep sympathy for Aasia Bibi. Several NGOs have called for repealing the blasphemy law because it was "being used by illiterate masses in rural areas to hoodwink the minorities".

The spokesman of the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP)- an NGO working for minority rights in Pakistan- said that the proceedings of the case took place under intense pressure, and the verdict was likely to be overturned in the high court.

Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI had also called for her release, and said that Christians in Pakistan were "often victims of violence and discrimination."

It is noteworthy that only around three per cent of Pakistan's population of 167 million is estimated to be non-Muslim. (ANI)

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