As persecuted Christian mother Asia Bibi continues to languish in Pakistan, the British government has said that is is in active talks with the Pakistani government to secure her release. Bibi was acquitted of her conviction for blasphemy last October, having spent the best part of a decade on death row.
Providing an update to the British Parliament on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said “making sure that she is safe and has somewhere safe to go is a top priority for this government.”
Despite the British coming under heavy criticism last year after Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly blocked Bibi’s asylum request, Hunt said that the government was progressing in its talks with Pakistani counterparts.
“We have had numerous discussions in private with a Pakistani government about how to progress this,” he said, according to Premier News UK. “We are making progress and I’m very hopeful that this will have a positive outcome.”
However, this is simply not good enough for many of those campaigning for Bibi’s swift release. Member of parliament, Helen Jones, has told the Warrington Guardian that Hunt could “go one step further in contesting the persecution of Christians around the world” by granting Bibi asylum immediately.
Why did the British government block Bibi’s asylum request?
Despite British Home Secretary Sajid Javid arguing in favor of the UK helping Bibi reach the safety of British shores, embattled Prime Minister May and her cabinet allegedly decided against the action. According to several reports, the prime minister was concerned about potential reprisal attacks from the Muslim community, should Bibi be admitted into the country.
“Britain was concerned about potential unrest in the country, attacks on embassies and civilians,” Wilson Chowdhry, the head of the British Pakistani Christian Association, told the Telegraph. “It does seem to me that Britain is now a country that is unsafe for those who may be tarred with an allegation of blasphemy. We are very aware that there are extremist elements in this country.”
In response to this, the Muslim Council of Britain tweeted that it sees “no reason why Asia Bibi should be denied asylum into the UK.”
British Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has continued to campaign for Bibi’s release.
What is delaying Bibi’s release?
Despite the fact that Bibi’s children are now safely in Canada, the Pakistani government has sought assurances from the mother that she will not speak ill of her home country in the media upon leaving. As such, there is still no indication of when exactly Bibi will finally evade the clutches of the country that has caused her so much strife.
“Even though the government says she can leave, the army has all the power in this case,” noted a source close to the family last month, according to the Daily Mail. “They are in control of her. They are fearful about getting a negative press if she speaks out about her experiences – but they will get an even worse press if she dies in protective custody.”
Bibi, who is being held in a safe house in the port city of Karachi, is reported to be “very unwell” with “low blood pressure.” In addition, it is thought that the 55-year-old mother has been denied medical care while being held captive.
Do continue to pray for Bibi and her family as battle forward in their fight for freedom.