Pakistani Islamists hold a poster displaying a portrait of Asia Bibi during a protest in Lahore on Feb. 1, 2019, against the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Catholic woman's acquittal in a blasphemy case. (Photo: AFP)
Christian activists are visiting the family of Asia Bibi after her brother-in-law was murdered in a village of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
The body of Younas Masih, 50, was found on May 25 morning in a furrow amid the crops of Dao Ki Mallian, a village in Sheikhupura district.
The father of two was married to Najma Bibi, the younger sister of Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman acquitted of blasphemy in 2018 after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan.
“He used to take care of the cattle at the farmhouse of a local landlord. We had been searching for him after he went missing a day earlier. His throat was slit. We handed over his body to police,” the victim’s brother George Masih stated in a first information report to police.
Masih accused Najma Bibi of conspiring to kill her husband with the help of Irfan Dogar, a local Muslim.
“She had illicit relations with Dogar. My brother often used to stop them. The accused [Dogar] murdered him at the behest of Bibi,” said Masih.
Punjab police spokesman Sohail Akhtar Sukhera told Dawn newspaper that Sheikhupura police had arrested Najma Bibi and Irfan Dogar. He said they had confessed to the crime and the victim’s body had been sent to a morgue for an autopsy.
Father Zafar of St. Teresa's Church in Sheikhupura refused to comment on the tragedy.
Saleem Iqbal, a Lahore-based activist, visited Bibi’s family on May 25.
“Normally our community is the victim but sadly the culprit is a Christian and a mother. The families of people freed from blasphemy charges are much safer under the present government,” he told UCA News.
Asia Bibi, 47, spent eight years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy in 2010 following an argument with her fellow farmhands over sharing water. Some Muslims consider Christians dirty and do not drink water using the same container.
Bibi, whose full name is Aasia Noreen, was convicted of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and a death sentence was handed down by a local court. It was upheld by Lahore High Court.
Punjab governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were later murdered for publicly supporting Bibi and criticizing Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law.
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court quashed her death sentence in October 2018 and ordered her immediate release from prison.
The ruling, however, sparked violent nationwide protests that came to an end only after the government agreed to stop Bibi from leaving Pakistan until a challenge to her acquittal was heard by the top court. The court, however, upheld Bibi’s acquittal in January 2019, allowing her to exit Pakistan.
She left Pakistan in May 2019 and now lives in an undisclosed location in Canada with her family.