Christian mother Asia Bibi continues to remain in Pakistan, despite open threats against her life from Islamist radicals who are desperate to “finish the job” and execute the harmless mother of two. Despite the fact was acquitted by the Supreme Court on bogus charges of “blasphemy,” Bibi’s life continues to hang in the balance. In addition, Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to little to stop the religious fundamentalists who are hell-bent on unleashing their demonic fury upon this innocent follower of Jesus.
LISTEN: Faithwire’s Will Maule discussing Asia Bibi with Glenn Beck on TheBlaze:
The UK is still not offering asylum to Asia Bibi.
Will they step up before it is too late? pic.twitter.com/hxuSpEKS2O
— TheBlaze (@theblaze) November 13, 2018
Khan initially appeared unabated and firmly appealed for calm following the explosive protests that erupted among the Islamist fanatics who were enraged by the courts sweeping away of the decade-old blasphemy charges leveled against Bibi.
Then, he caved, offering the radical, terror-affiliated political group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) a deal – the Supreme Court ruling would have to remain, but Bibi would not be able to flee the country. It was, in effect, a second signing of Asia’s death warrant. In a country where politicians have been shot dead in broad daylight for speaking out publicly against the nation’s draconian blasphemy laws, Bibi would now become a sitting duck and an almost certain victim of Pakistan’s culture of savage vigilantism.
Released last week from her squalid prison in Punjab province, Bibi was transported to an undisclosed location in Islamabad as various governments continue to figure out a way of getting her away from the blood-thirsty Islamists. The ability to fly abroad remains a key factor in this horrifying case, as Bibi attempts to seek asylum in the West. So far, Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih has appealed for help from several nations including the UK, US, Canada, with no success.
The government has issued mixed messages about Bibi’s ability to travel abroad, initially saying that it had struck a deal with radical clerics and ordered that the embattled woman is put on a no-fly list. More recently, however, a spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Office suggested that Bibi was free to leave.
Bibi’s husband Sadiq Masih has said the family is in grave danger and has made several pleas for asylum in the UK, US and Canada. So far, there have been no official offers of asylum from either of those three nations. Despite gaining huge swathes of support from many in the UK, the British Government has stopped short of granting Bibi and her family a home in the European nation. Why? Many MP’s and MEP’s are outraged by the government’s sluggish response to this desperate woman’s plea.
“It is immoral that Britain will allow thousands of illegal economic migrants to come into our country pretending to be refugees in need of asylum, and then bar Asia, a young woman in danger of the most terrible mob death because she is a believing Christian,” Member of European Parliament, Steven Woolfe, told Faithwire. “If Asia cannot claim asylum in Britain then Britain must ask itself what sort of country have we become?”
The former minister for International Development, the Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne also pledged his support for Bibi, telling Faithwire that he and other colleagues had “written to the PM with other colleagues asking for Asia Bibi to be given asylum here.”
But according to Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association, who has been campaigning on behalf of Bibi for a number of years, the UK government is concerned about “security” and potential reprisal on embassy buildings.
“Britain was concerned about potential unrest in the country, attacks on embassies and civilians,” Chowdhry told British newspaper The Telegraph. “They have not offered automatic asylum, whereas several countries have now come forward. They won’t be coming to Britain. The family will definitely not be coming to Britain.”
Conservative MP Rehman Chisti today told the BBC that the UK has a “moral obligation” to grant asylum to Bibi. “I think it’s absolutely right and proper that we should give her asylum,” he said, noting that the UK should be quick to “give sanctuary to someone who’s been persecuted for their faith” and “whose life is in grave danger.”
The UK has a "moral obligation to give sanctuary" to Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, says MP @Rehman_Chishti. She's been acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row but now faces danger from radicals #r4today https://t.co/j9cCBAm33O pic.twitter.com/dLbl0Va5Pu
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) November 13, 2018
Former British Foreign Secretary and ex-Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, also called on the UK government to act. “I am well aware, as a former foreign secretary, of the constant threat to our overseas missions but we cannot allow the threat of violence to deter us from doing the right thing,” he said in a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
“I do not think it is a dignified position for the UK, given our historic links with Pakistan and the extent of our influence there, to look to others to do what we are allegedly nervous to do ourselves.”
While a British Home Office spokeswoman said that she would not comment on individual cases, Whitehall sources told The Telegraph that the British government “welcomes the assurances the government of Pakistan has given on keeping her and her family safe,” adding that “it is important that all countries seek to uphold the rule of law and afford security and protection for the rights of all citizens irrespective or faith or belief.”
A lot of words, but no action. Indeed, there are plenty more lofty statements of support being offered by leading officials from countries across the globe, and yet very few of them seem to be actually stretching out a hand.
Despite the lack of formal asylum offers, several politicians from nations including Germany, Italy, France, UK, Poland, Costa Rica, Spain, The Netherlands, Columbia, Belgium and Ireland have signed a letter personally addressed to PM Imran Khan, “urging the Government of Pakistan to secure Bibi’s and her family’s safe exit from the country.”
“We urge in the strongest possible terms the Government of Pakistan to guarantee safe passage for Asia, her family, and any of those under threat due to their part in the decision to acquit her, to any country that accepts them,” the letter reads, adding that “the rule of law and the fundamental human rights to freedom of religion and expression,” should be upheld in this highly troubling situation.
The letter continues:
“We celebrated the decision of the Supreme Court to acquit Asia Bibi and were pleased to see the government defend the judiciary in the days that followed. However, it has since been reported that because of the political deal struck with Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, Asia Bibi is, once again, effectively on death row.
We are aware that a review of the Supreme Court verdict could take years, leaving Asia incarcerated for that time or vulnerable to mob violence if released. We understand that the decision to review the ruling was made for political, rather than legal, reasons.
What happens next in this sad story will show the world whether Pakistan is a nation that respects the rule of law, or whether political interests will prevail.”
The letter urged “in the strongest possible terms” the immediate release of Bibi from the nation of Pakistan.
There is, however, a glimmer of hope. In recent days, it has been reported that the European nation of Italy has made an offer of asylum to Bibi and her family.
“I want women and children whose lives are at risk to be able to have a secure future, in our country or in other Western countries,” said Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, according to Premier UK. “So, I will do everything humanly possible to guarantee that [for Ms Bibi].”
Whether that will really happen, however, remains to be seen. Late last week, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal dispelled rumors that Bibi had been smuggled out of Pakistan. Asia’s lawyer Saif Mulook, who has fled to The Netherlands, previously told AFP that Bibi was “on a plane but nobody knows where she will land,” which led many to believe, and report, that Bibi was on a one-way ticket out of the country. But, as was confirmed by Faisal, Bibi is still in the Middle Eastern nation, albeit under armed guard for her own safety.
“Asia Bibi is in Pakistan,” Faisal stated, before adding the woman was “now a free citizen and can go wherever she wishes.”
“Her writ is being heard. When a decision is made, she will go wherever she wants to go. It is a free country; she is a free national,” he said. “She can go wherever she wants to go. No one can object to that. If a free national of Pakistan wants to go somewhere, he/she has to get a visa and go. Nothing odd about that.”
However, in its appeasement deal with the TLP, the Pakistani government said it would not block any appeals lodged against the Supreme Court’s ruling. If an appeal was to be successful, Bibi’s ordeal could be far from over. It is a devastatingly uncertain time for the 53-year-old, who was absolutely flabberghasted by the ruling. “I can’t believe what I am hearing, will I go out now?” she said at the time. “Will they let me out, really?.” Heartbreaking words from a woman who was understandably cautious about celebrating her newly granted freedom. She, more than anyone, likely knew that her fight was far from over.
WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND?
Pakistan’s Supreme Court quashed the conviction of Christian mother Asia Bibi on October 31. Bibi was initially arrested back in 2009 after supposedly entering into an argument with a group of women about a source of drinking water. The Islamist women accused Bibi of drinking from the same tap as them, to which Bibi allegedly responded, “Jesus Christ died for my sins. What did the prophet Muhammad do for you?” a remark which they believed offended their revered religious figure.
However, in the Supreme Court’s final judgment, it declared that the two sisters who accused Bibi “had no regard for the truth,” before adding that “the said semi-literate young sisters had a reason to level allegations against the appellant which could be untrue.”
The landmark judgment also noted that the prosecution’s presented evidence in the case “was nothing short of concoction incarnate.”
“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” said Chief Justice Saqib Nisar in the astonishingly bold ruling, as reported by the Guardian. But the court’s statement went even further, implying that Bibi had been subject to clear-cut prejudice in her arrest and trial. “It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’,” read the judgment written by Justice Asif Khosa, “but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’.”
The radicals, however, have remained blood-thirsty from the very day Bibi was arrested.
Prior to her acquittal, in Pakistan’s second-largest city of Lahore, hundreds of protesters gathered together and chanted “Hang infidel Asia.” Sickeningly, the hashtag #HangAsiaDefend295C was trending among the religious extremists on Twitter, with the 295c referring to “295-C” of Pakistan’s penal code which makes it a criminal offense to blaspheme against the Prophet Muhammad.
According to the Penal Code itself, 295-B refers to the prohibiting of “Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur’an,” and 295-C is in reference to the “use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet.” Other non-Islamic-specific violations contained in Pakistan’s criminal laws include “trespassing on burial places” and “disturbing religious assembly.”
Those who have chosen to support Bibi’s cause have faced grave consequences. In addition to the threat against Bibi, her family and the justices involved in her acquittal, other prominent politicians have lost their lives in the pursuit of religious freedom.
In 2011, shortly after Bibi’s conviction, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was brutally murdered for speaking out in support of the wrongly convicted Christian woman. Shot dead on the streets of Islamabad, his own bodyguard was found guilty of the heinous crime and, though sentenced to death himself, he has since become a cult hero with a large shrine in his honor erected on the outskirts of the capital city.
Just two months later, Christian politician and outspoken critic of the blasphemy laws, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also assassinated — shot dead by the Pakistani Taliban as he traveled to work.
There is no doubt that until Bibi is successfully extracted from Pakistan and granted asylum in a safe and civil country, her life continues to hang in the balance.