Pakistani Muslims threaten violence unless Christian mother is executed

Pakistan, a hot bed of Islamic extremism - even among those who oppose the Taliban - may execute a Christian woman for "blasphemy" based solely on the testimony of witnesses who hate her for her religion.

A mother of 5, Aasia Bibi may even be innocent of the charges:

Bibi was arrested in June 2009 after Muslim women labourers refused to drink from a bowl of water she was asked to fetch while out working in the fields.

Days later, the women complained that she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. Bibi was set upon by a mob, arrested by police and sentenced on November 8.

Rights activists and pressure groups say it is the first time that a woman had been sentenced to hang in Pakistan for blasphemy.

"Days later?" In our morally relative world where one culture's idea of justice is just as authentic as ours, I guess we could chalk up her conviction under these extraordinarily weak circumstances to local traditions. In the real world, however, it is appalling.

What do the fanatics have planned?

We will hold nationwide protests if the government pardons the Christian woman," the subsidiary's chief coordinator, Qari Yaqub, told participants.

Politicians and conservative clerics have been at loggerheads over whether President Asif Ali Zardari should pardon Bibi, who was sentenced on November 8 to hang under controversial blasphemy laws for defaming the Prophet Mohammed.

"The pardon would lead to anarchy in the country," the head of the Sunni Ittehad Council, Sahibzada Fazal Kareem, told AFP.

"Our stand is very clear that this punishment cannot be waived."

The council opposes Taliban militants, which are fighting government troops in parts of northwest Pakistan, and has also organised a protest march against deadly attacks on Sufi shrines blamed on Islamist hardliners.

Remember: Congress authorized $7 billion for Pakistan last year. Are we sure we want our tax dollars going to subsidize these 14th century loons?