The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman who was acquitted in a blasphemy case last week has requested Prime Minister Theresa May to grant his wife and their family asylum in the United Kingdom, reported The Guardian.
In a video message, Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih called on May to “help us exit from Pakistan” where people have protested against the Supreme Court’s ruling and demanded that Bibi be punished. He also called for asylum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Donald Trump in the footage, reported The Telegraph.
“The current situation is very dangerous for us,” Masih told DW. “We have no security and are hiding here and there, frequently changing our location.”
Wilson Chowdhry, chairperson of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said Masih had already applied for asylum at a western embassy but it was not expediting the request. Chowdhry said the family needed “immediate asylum” and that it was “incredible” no government had stepped in to grant them asylum.
A senior Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat urged the Foreign Office to raise Bibi’s case with the Pakistani government. “I will be asking the Foreign Office for an urgent evaluation of the situation and assurance from the Pakistan government that Asia Bibi, who has been found innocent by the Supreme Court, will not be abandoned to a hate-filled mob,” said Tugendhat, who is the chair of the foreign affairs select committee. “It is clear that Ms Bibi and other religious minorities are in grave danger and Prime Minister Imran Khan needs to decide if he believes in the rule of law or the rule of the mob”, The Guardian quoted him as saying.
The police on Sunday arrested more than 250 people from across the country on charges of arson, vandalism and violence during the three-day protests that followed Bibi’s acquittal, The Express Tribune reported. On Friday night, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party – which has primarily led the demonstrations – announced an end to protests after reaching an agreement with the government led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The two sides signed a five-point agreement, according to which the government will not object to an appeal of the verdict that has been filed in the Supreme Court.
The interior ministry has started criminal proceedings and booked 5,000 people, including Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and senior leader Afzal Qadri, on charges of rioting and disrupting peace.
Legal proceedings will now be initiated to impose a travel ban on Bibi and stop her from leaving the country. Bibi’s family would need to make a request for asylum after fleeing Pakistan. Her lawyer fled the country on Saturday fearing for his life.
A day after the agreement, Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said that appeasement to “avoid bloodshed” sends a dangerous message to non-state actors and undermines the concept of democratic peaceful protest.
Bibi was accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad during an argument with a group of women in her neighbourhood near Lahore in 2009. The women had said they could no longer use a cup from which Bibi had had water, because of her religion. Bibi later acknowledged she had used “hot words” during the argument that followed, but claimed to have not said anything blasphemous.
Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy by a trial court in 2010. She moved the Supreme Court against a 2014 Lahore High Court order that upheld the trial court’s decision. She has spent most of the last eight years in solitary confinement.