Asia Bibi's young daughters tortured by blasphemy accusers

Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi is facing death for blasphemy(Photo: Voice of the Martyrs)

The two young daughters of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy, have spoken about their own violent treatment at the hands of their mother's accusers.

Esham was just 9 years old when she was warned by friends that her mother was being attacked in the field where she worked as a berry picker.

"I rushed to the spot and found that she was being abused and tortured by men. They had even torn her clothes," Esham, now 14, told the MailOnline.

After running home and returning with a new dress for her mother, Esham says the men began torturing her, too. They used offensive slurs and dragged the two women into the village. "We were both crying but there was nobody to listen to us," she recalls.

The police arrived and told Esham to find her father, but he was too "terrified" to come, and by the time she returned, her mother had already been arrested and taken away.

Also speaking to the Mail, Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, said he is ashamed of his actions that day, but "I do not think it could have helped her or our family if I had tried to save her".

"I might also have ended up in jail as a blasphemy-accused and there would be no one to help my daughters," he said.

Masih has denounced the behaviour of his wife's accusers, and says they even abused his now 15-year-old daughter Esha, who has special needs. "They became so cruel. They didn't even spare my daughters and tortured them."

The family is now too afraid to return to their home village for fear of retribution. "I have restricted my movement. I am afraid of being recognised as Asia's husband in public," Masih said.

"I have almost stopped communicating with Muslims. I am afraid they could recognise me. Just imagine how tough it will be for my wife to live in prison."

Found guilty of blasphemy in November 2010, Bibi has been on death row for almost four years. Her sentence was upheld in the Lahore High Court last week, but her lawyers will now take her case to the upper echelons of the Pakistani legal system. It is thought likely that she will be released.

However, a representative from persecution charity Release International warned that should she walk free, "extremists will be given encouragement to pursue their own line of assassination".

Two people associated with Bibi's defence have already been murdered. Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was killed by a member of his security team in January 2011 for opposing the blasphemy laws.

Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan's cabinet, was also shot dead by gunmen who ambushed his car in March 2011.

Release's Andrew Boyd said: "Both Asia and her family are at risk, whatever the law decides to do."