Asia Noreen, sentenced to death on “blasphemy” charges, has lived in constant fear since the killing of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer. “She knows the Muslims have announced a prize on her head and would go to any lengths to kill her,” Noreen’s husband, Ashiq Masih, told Compass. Masih said his wife is “very afraid.”
Noreen’s conviction for insulting Islam’s prophet Muhammad, which she denies, triggered a violent chain of events in Pakistan, including the Jan. 4 murder of Taseer by his bodyguard after the governor voiced support for her. Masih said prison authorities had improved her security after Taseer’s killing. “She’s being kept in a separate cell with a warden deployed 24 hours,” he said. “Only I am allowed to meet her, but even I am searched completely before they bring her out for the meeting.”
Sheikhupura District Jail Superintendent Sheikh Khalid, who recently assumed charge, told Compass that Noreen was the most “high value” inmate of the prison. “She is on the hit list of several extremist organizations,” he said, “and there are reports that she might be targeted inside the jail – moreover, she has a 30 million rupee [US$350,000] prize on her head. This is enough incentive for anyone to kill her.” He said the prison had enhanced its security measures, and additional forces have been employed to guard the premises at night. “No one except her husband can meet her,” Khalid said. “I have also directed her not to eat anything given to her by any person other than the wardens deployed for her security. We are trying our best to keep her safe, but life and death are in the hands of Allah.”
Wearing a dark cloak to hide his identity, Masih was visibly nervous after meeting with her. “She was asking me about the situation outside,” he said. “I tried to console her, but she knows it’s really bad. She’s also worried about the children.” Noreen asked him to appeal for more prayers…“Please tell everyone to pray for her,” he said.
Father, we are in constant awe at Your mighty hand in our world. We ask now for Your protection and comfort over Asia Noreen, as she awaits her appeal. Give her favor in court and over-turn the death sentence. Father, also help her to continue to honor and serve You in the midst of her situation. We also ask for peace and comfort for her husband and children at this time. Amen.
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