The lawyer who represented Christian mother Asia Bibi during her successful Supreme Court appeal against a conviction of blasphemy, Saiful Malook, will return to Pakistan to continue his work with the stricken mother. Asia Bibi, a mother-of-five, has been freed from jail but is being held at an undisclosed location in Islamabad due to safety concerns. Malook will fight against the radical Islamic party Tehreek-e-Labbaik, which is petitioning for the landmark acquittal to be overturned.
According to ABC News, no specific date has been set by the court with regards to the petition hearing.
In 2010, Asia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Despite numerous appeals, the courts continued to rule against the mother, who was alleged to have insulted the prophet Muhammad during a dispute on a communal farm. Then, on October 31, Pakistan’s Supreme Court threw out the bogus conviction, claiming that the case against Bibi was void of any substantial evidence.
Malook was forced to flee the country following the Supreme Court ruling, as radical Islamists sought to kill him, Bibi and her family. Taking refuge in the Netherlands, the attorney has said that he is “proud of defending Asia Bibi” despite the grave danger it put him in.
“I have no regret,” he said at a conference event in November, according to Premier UK.
Bibi herself spent Christmas under armed guard at her safe house in the Pakistani capital.
THE MOBS BAYING FOR BLOOD
Pior 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 all 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.
WHAT IS THE LATEST ON ASIA BIBI’S ASYLUM REQUEST?
Despite numerous dialogues between Pakistan and various western nations, asylum has still yet to be granted to the Christian mother. Offers have been made from nations across the globe including Canada, Italy and Australia. More recently, British politicians have been piling pressure on the UK government to act and grant Bibi asylum. Yesterday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review of the plight of persecuted Christians across the globe following Britain’s sluggish response to the plight of Asia Bibi.
“Britain has long championed international religious freedom,” he said, announcing the review, which will be headed up by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Reverend Philip Mounstephen.
“So often, the persecution of Christians is a telling early warning sign of the persecution of every minority,” Hunt added, as reported by the BBC.
In a statement published at Gov.uk, Hunt continued:
“It is not in our national character to turn a blind eye to suffering. All religious minorities must be protected and the evidence demonstrates that in some countries, Christians face the greatest risk.
We should be willing to state that simple fact – and adjust our policies accordingly.
The Apostle Paul foretold of the suffering that Christians would face through the ages, but still saw reason to hope: ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.’
It is time to echo that message of hope to the persecuted church around the world; with our deeds as well as our words.”
The foreign secretary noted the case of Asia Bibi, who he said had been “beaten, imprisoned, and despite being acquitted still lives under constant guard because of the threat of mob justice. Her plight, Hunt said, had “moved the hearts of the British public.”
When previously quizzed over the British government’s failure to offer a safe haven for Bibi, Prime Minister Theresa May previously stated that, while the situation was complex, “the absolute prime concern” was the “safety and security” of Asia Bibi and her family. Many interpreted this as an empty promise to protect a woman who is at grave risk of being killed for her faith.