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EU parliament urges pardon, release of Asia Bibi

STRASBOURG: The European parliament on Thursday urged Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon and release Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam.

In a resolution adopted by the 736-seat assembly, the parliamentarians asked “the Pakistani authorities to free Asia Bibi immediately” and urged Zardari “to use his constitutional authority to pardon her.”

The 45-year-old mother-of-five was sentenced to death in November after Muslim women labourers who worked with her in the fields complained she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

The European parliamentarians also called on “the Pakistani government once again for a sweeping revision of blasphemy laws and their application.”

The resolution also refers to the January 4 assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot dead by a police commando after calling for reform of the blasphemy law used to sentence Bibi to death.

His outspoken liberal stance offended the country’s increasingly powerful conservative religious base.

The parliament paid homage to Taseer for his “courage” and “force of character.”

It decried the fact that tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Karachi to defend his killing and expressed great concern for the groudnswell of support “in favour of religious intolerance.”

The Pakistani government must work “to stop the voice of moderates being reduced to silence by extremists in the country” and “purge from the security forces the extremist elements within.”

It said parts of the army, the judiciary and the political class either tacitly or publicly supported religious extremists. Even government-approved school text-books contained “hatred-inciting propaganda.”

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