Pakistan’s Supreme Court, on October 31 acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman languishing on death row after being convicted of blasphemy in 2010. It was a landmark decision for Pakistan, where the law is frequently unkind to religious minorities, and particularly to those accused of blasphemy.
Religious hardliners, led by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), immediately took to the streets in protest. Several days later, Pakistan’s government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, reached a deal that made generous concessions to the protestors, who want Bibi executed. Islamabad agreed to take steps to prevent Bibi — newly acquitted of all charges by the highest court in the land — from leaving the country. Asia remains in Pakistan endangering her life.
A year ago, when the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PLMN) party was running the government, the TLP led a sit-in outside Islamabad that demanded the resignation of Pakistan’s law minister for making a small change to a religious oath uttered by new parliamentarians. The official resigned, and the change to the oath was reversed.
Then, several months ago, following pressure from religious hardliners, the current government asked Princeton professor Atif Mian, a distinguished Pakistani economist, to step down just days after having appointed him to serve on a new economic advisory council.
The husband of Asia Bibi, who was finally acquitted of blasphemy in the conservative country last month after serving eight years in prison on death row, says he and his wife are worried angry Islamists will try to hunt them down if they stay in Pakistan.
The nation has descended into angry protests since her acquittal and officials are now keeping her in hiding for her own safety. But the authorities have bowed to demands from radicals to ban her from fleeing the country.
Ashiq Masih has called upon western leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May, to grant the couple refuge. In a video message seen by AFP, Masih said: “I request President Donald Trump to help us to leave and I request the prime minister of the UK to do their level best to help us, to grant us freedom.”
Masih also calls on the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help.
The ultra-conservative religious party Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) has protested a Pakistani court’s decision to grant Mrs Bibi an acquittal.
She had been convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammed in 2010 during a row with her neighbours, a crime which can carry the death penalty in Pakistan.