Salman Taseer listens to Asia Bibi at a prison in Sheikhupura.—AP

LAHORE: A Christian woman sentenced to death under blasphemy laws by a court in Nankana district has submitted a mercy petition to the President. Asia Bibi submitted her petition under Article-45 through Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who met her in the Sheikhupura district jail on Saturday.

A resident of Ittawali village in Nankana district, Asia said in her petition that she had been framed.

On Friday, President Asif Zardari asked the ministry for minorities affairs to compile a report on the case within three days.

According to Asia Bibi’s account, she was working in the field on June 14 last year along with other women, including Mafia and Asma. An argument started between her and Mafia and

Asma when they refused to drink water fetched by her on the plea that she was a Christian.

“This led to use of abusive language and squabble,” Asia stated in her petition, a copy of which was given to Dawn.

Asia said a false case under blasphemy laws was registered against her when Mafia and Asma approached Qari Salaam, an imam of a mosque, and sought his help “I swore on the Bible that I never uttered any derogatory remark against the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), but they never listened to me and booked me in a crime that I never committed,” Asia said.

She said a court of additional district and sessions judge in Nankana convicted her under 295-C of the PPC and sentenced her to death.

The court also ordered her to pay Rs100,000 as fine, failing which she would have to undergo an imprisonment of six months.

In her petition, Asia contended that since she was uneducated, she could never be a preacher of Christianity, an allegation made in the FIR.

She said the judge had awarded her punishment by ignoring the law and the facts under “pressure of some religious extremists”.

“The case was registered in violation of certain provisions of the law and the investigation, too, violated the blasphemy law,” she argued.

“Punjab Governor Salman Taseer received the petition from Asia during his visit to Sheikhupura jail on Saturday. The governor will now forward it to President Zardari,” Ishtiaq Amin, a spokesman for the Governor’s House, said.

Punjab’s Chief Public Prosecutor Jahangir Ahmad said Asia had already filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court, seeking suspension of the punishment given by the Nankana court.

He said that according to Section 156-A, no police officer below the rank of SP could investigate a blasphemy case. But a sub-inspector investigated Asia’s case initially.

However, an officer equal to the rank of SP carried out the investigation into the case at a later stage, he added.

“The prosecution department, police and others concerned should deal with blasphemy cases very carefully,” Mr Jahangir added.