Terry Jeffrey

Bhatti, the Catholic minister of religious minorities, investigated the Bibi case and recommended to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, that Bibi be pardoned. He also recommended Pakistan's blasphemy law be changed.

Salman Taseer, the Muslim governor of the Punjab, backed Bibi's petition for a pardon. "I am going to take this petition to the president, and the president will forgive her," Taseer said, according to The Associated Press.

In January 2010, one of Taseer's bodyguards shot him in the back -- and then confessed.

When he entered court the next day, according to National Public Radio, "young lawyers ... showered the assassin with rose petals."

A month after Taseer's assassination, Bhatti told the Christian Post: "I received a call from the Taliban commander and he said, 'If you will bring any changes in the blasphemy law and speak on this issue, then you will be killed. ... I don't believe that bodyguards can save me after the assassination (of Taseer). I believe in the protection from heaven."

In March 2010, assassins gunned Bhatti down in his car.

The BBC then reported that Bhatti had "recorded a statement in December, and asked that it be sent to the BBC in the event of his death."

"I am living for my community, and for suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights," Bhatti said in the statement.

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released her department's annual International Religious Freedom Report. It listed eight "Countries of Particular Concern" that had "engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom."

Pakistan was not one of them.

The report did say that "after initially signaling he was considering pardoning Aasia Bibi's death penalty sentence for alleged blasphemy, President Zardari refrained from doing so."

The State Department said Bibi remains in custody.

President Barack Obama came to office offering a new vision for American diplomacy in the Muslim world. Here is his chance to prove it works. He should rally the leaders of all the major Muslim nations -- including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which enjoy close relations with the United States -- to call on Pakistan to pardon and free Asia Bibi and let her and her family come to America.

He should challenge them openly and boldly to give the whole world an opportunity to see their commitment to tolerance and freedom of conscience.


Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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