The daughters of Asia Bibi pose in 2010 with an image of their mother while standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura, Pakistan. CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters

Activists push for Asia Bibi to join family in Canada

  • March 6, 2019

More than a month after Pakistan’s Supreme Court announced that it had confirmed its decision to acquit Asia Bibi, the 51-year-old Catholic woman is still in Pakistan under protective custody despite an offer of asylum from Canada. 

Activists campaigning on behalf of her freedom now are demanding the delays be ended so she can be reunited with her daughters, who are already in Canada.

Bibi’s acquittal last October was greeted with violent protests on the streets of Lahore and Islamabad. The extremist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik vowed to kill the former farm labourer, who had spent more than eight years on death row accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammed in an argument over whether she had touched a container of drinking water that was to be shared among the Muslim workers at the farm.

Pakistani security forces rounded up some 3,000 anti-Bibi protesters, but threats have continued. Islamist activist Hafiz Ehtisham Ahmed told the Agence France Press the threat to Bibi’s life is global.

“She deserves to be murdered according to sharia,” she said. “If she goes abroad, don’t Muslims live there? If she goes out of Pakistan… anybody can kill her there.”

Canada should not delay Bibi’s exit from Pakistan because of such threats, said Canadian Catholic campaigner and family friend of Bibi’s, Nadeem Bhatti.

“These types of statements, they cannot threaten us. They’re crazy people, you know?” Bhatti said. “They’re willing to die for sharia laws.”

Bhatti is confident Bibi would be safe in Canada.

“You think that a small number of people who carry the guns, that they are stronger than the RCMP? They are stronger than law enforcement here?” he asked.

Sheraz Khan, founder and chief executive of International Minorities Concern, a UK-based advocacy group for minority rights, wants the Canadian government to hurry the process along.

“Ms. Bibi’s ordeal must come to an end,” Khan said in an e-mail to The Catholic Register. “The Canadian government must ask the Pakistani authorities as to why they are not allowing Asia Bibi to fly to Canada. The Canadian government should follow through on its offer of asylum for Asia Bibi and ask Pakistan to allow Asia Bibi to fly to Canada.”

Bibi’s lawyer told the Washington Post in February that his client must leave the country.

“There is no way she can stay in Pakistan,” Saif ul Malook said.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court challenged the people demanding Bibi be killed when one of the judges asked, “Is this the face of Islam you want to show the world?”

The longer Bibi is held in a secret location for fear of assassins, the less meaningful her acquittal becomes, Khan told The Register.

“There is no justification whatsoever for Pakistan to keep Asia Bibi in what it calls ‘protective custody.’ There is absolutely no point for courts in Pakistan to give correct rulings if people like Asia Bibi cannot fly out of Pakistan after having been acquitted of blasphemy,” he said.

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