Wednesday, June 10, 2015
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A 50-year old Christian woman on death row in Pakistan for alleged blasphemy is in urgent need of medical treatment, her family say.
Asia Bibi is suffering from intestinal bleeding, The Global Dispatch reports. Relatives visited her for the first time in a month at the end of May and found that she was "so weak she can hardly walk".
"When vomiting there is also shown traces of blood, Asia has difficulty feeding properly, while constant pain in the chest. Therefore, it is necessary that Asia Bibi be submitted as soon as possible a full medical check-up, including blood work," a source told the website.
Bibi's lawyers are said to be working to get her the treatment she needs.
Found guilty of blasphemy in November 2010, Bibi has been imprisoned for five years and is currently on death row. She continues to deny accusations that she insulted the Prophet Muhammad – charges levelled at her by former colleagues.
Human rights groups say that Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws are frequently misused by extremists, and false charges brought against Christians in order to settle personal scores or to seize property or businesses. Bibi's case made global headlines when two prominent politicians were assassinated after trying to help her.
Speaking to the BBC earlier this year, her husband, Ashiq Massih, said that he and the couple's five children have been in hiding ever since Bibi was first arrested. "We get death threats. We can't stay in one place very long," he said.
"We live in hiding. It's very hard especially for the children. They can't settle down or study. It's not a normal life to be constantly living in fear."
More recently, anti-Christian violence erupted in a suburb of Lahore after a mentally ill man was accused of burning pages from the Quran. Last year, a Christian couple were beaten and burned to death in a brick kiln following rumours that they had also burned pages from the Quran. They were later proved innocent, and Pakistan has now charged 106 people with their murder.
However, news recently broke that the laws could soon be modified to combat increasing misuse. A draft bill introducing severe penalties against those who make false allegations of blasphemy has been finalised by the interior ministry, and will now be put before the Pakistani government. The new legislation aims to ensure that people do not take the law into their own hands, and will require proof that an individual intended to commit blasphemy before they can be charged.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last month urged the Obama Administration to designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern".
"The government failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence, and Pakistani authorities have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal actors who incite violence," its annual report said.