Blasphemy case: Masjid imam offers reward to kill Aasia
PESHAWAR: Maulana Yousuf Qureshi, an imam of a major mosque in Peshawar on Friday offered a reward for anyone who kills Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death by a court on charges of blasphemy.
Qureshi offered a Rs500,000 reward and warned the government against any move to abolish or change the blasphemy law.
The sentence against Asia Bibi has renewed debate about the law which critics say is used to persecute religious minorities, fan religious extremism and settle personal scores.
“We will strongly resist any attempt to repeal laws which provide protection to the sanctity of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” Qureshi told a rally.
“Anyone who kills Aasia will be given Rs500,000 in reward from Masjid Mohabat Khan,” he said referring to his mosque.
While Qureshi is not believed to have a wide following, comments by clerics can provoke a violent response and complicate government efforts to combat religious extremism and militancy.
Qureshi, cleric who has been leading congregation at the 17th century Mohabat Khan mosque for decades, later told Reuters he was determined to see her killed.
“We expect her to be hanged and if she is not hanged then we will ask mujahideen and Taliban to kill her.”
In 2006, Qureshi and his followers announced rewards amounting to over $1 million for anyone who killed Danish cartoonists who drew caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that had enraged Muslims worldwide.
After her conviction, Aasia appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon her, saying she had been wrongly accused by neighbours due to a personal dispute.
Last week, a minister said an initial inquiry into the case showed she had not committed blasphemy. The Lahore High Court last month prevented Zardari from granting a pardon and ruled that the High Court should be allowed to decide her appeal.
“No president, no parliament and no government has any right to interfere in the commandants of Islam. Islamic punishment will be implemented at all costs,” said Qureshi.