Washington [US], January 07 (ANI): United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner James W. Carr on Thursday announced his adoption of Ramzan Bibi, an Ahmadi woman detained in Pakistan under the controversial blasphemy laws, through the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.
USCIRF's Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project highlights individuals imprisoned for exercising their freedom of religion or belief, as well as the dedicated advocacy of USCIRF Commissioners working for their release. The USCIRF is a US federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
On April 30, 2020, Ramzan Bibi, a 55-year-old woman, was detained and accused of making blasphemous remarks during a personal dispute over the return of her charitable donation to a local mosque in Cheleki village in Pakistan's Punjab province.
Bibi was charged under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, an offence that carries the death penalty. She is currently imprisoned at Central Jail Lahore, according to a USCIRF statement.
Carr has asked the Pakistani government to release Ramzan Bibi, and all others detained for blasphemy immediately.
"The Pakistani government must immediately release Ramzan Bibi, and all others detained for blasphemy," said Commissioner Carr. "Authorities allowing these laws to be used for personal gain or vendetta are only enabling systematic discrimination based on religious belief. This is clear in Bibi's case, as she is facing imprisonment simply because of her Ahmadi faith. The Pakistani government needs to repeal blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws and until this is accomplished, enact comprehensive reform," Carr said.
A village committee formed in Cheleki to investigate the case concluded that there was no evidence to prove the accusations of blasphemy against Bibi. However, hardline Muslim clerics compelled a non-Ahmadi resident of the village, who was not present during the dispute, falsely testify against Bibi resulting in her incarceration.
Bibi's bail application was rejected by the judge on November 18. An appeal has been filed for the mother of six, who has been waiting in jail throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. Department of State continue to designate Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern, a recommendation USCIRF has made since 2002 due to Pakistan's systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief.
In December 2020, USCIRF published a report on Violating Rights: Enforcing the World's Blasphemy Laws, which examines the enforcement of blasphemy laws worldwide. This report found that the country with the most cases of state-enforced blasphemy laws was Pakistan, with 184 cases identified between 2014-2018.
In June, USCIRF released a Policy Update on Pakistan that outlines the path for reforming and eventually repealing its blasphemy law. (ANI)