Blasphemy convict’s family goes into hiding after death threats


ISLAMABAD: The family of Asiya Noreen, the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, has gone into hiding because of death threats, they said on Wednesday.
Politicians and conservative clerics are at loggerheads on whether President Asif Ali Zardari should pardon Asiya, a mother of five. Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti told reporters that Asiya’s family had been forced to flee their home but declined to say where they were staying because of security fears.
“We are frightened. We are receiving threats, especially from clerics. They started demonstrations in the area,” Asiya’s husband Ashiq Masih told reporters in Bhatti’s office, accompanied by his daughters. “Yesterday there was a protest in Shekhupura. They said they will not leave Asiya alive if she is pardoned,” Masih said.
Bhatti said he would submit a petition from the family asking Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to pardon Asiya. “Today they have given me a mercy petition for the prime minister. I will submit it to the prime minister this week. The case is baseless,” said Bhatti.