Christians still fearful in Pakistan, says Aasia Bibi

Aasia Bibi was on death row in Pak over blasphemy charges

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 31

For nearly a year, Aasia Bibi, a death row prisoner in Pakistan and now rehabilitated in Canada, has not been heard of. A Christian, her trauma began when she intervened in a fight and was herself charged with blasphemy, a law in Pakistan's books which has been criticised by the entire spectrum of civil society. A trial court in 2010 sentenced her to death on blasphemy charges and her fate hung in balance for eight long years till she was acquitted by a higher court and allowed to leave for Canada.

Now, a book details the years of uncertainty and terror that Aasia Bibi spent for eight years on the death row. The book 'Enfin libre!' (Finally Free!) by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet is out in French while the English version will hit the stands in September.

"You are far from understanding my daily life in prison or my new life. I became a prisoner of fanaticism and tears were the only companions in the cell," she co-wrote about the dreadful conditions in filthy jails, where she was chained and other inmates were allowed to taunt her and demand a death sentence for her.

"My wrists are burning me, it is hard to breathe. My neck is encased in an iron collar that the guard can tighten with a huge nut. A long chain drags along on the filthy ground. This connects my neck to the handcuffed hand that pulls me like a dog on a lead. Deep within me, a dull fear takes me towards the depths of darkness. A lacerating fear that will never leave me," she recalls.

What about the conditions of Christians in Pakistan now that she has been freed? "Even with my freedom, the climate does not seem to have changed and Christians can expect all kinds of reprisals. They live with this sword of Damocles over their head," she said.

She still loves Pakistan and is unsure how long Canada will host her. "In this unknown country, I am ready for a new departure, perhaps for a new life. But at what price? My heart broke when I had to leave without saying goodbye to my father or other members of the families.

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