Islamic extremists have struck a deal with the Pakistani government to prevent a Christian acquitted last week by the Supreme Court of “blasphemy” from leaving the Muslim-majority country.
As WND reported, Asia Bibi, after nine years of incarceration, had her conviction and death sentence for allegedly blaspheming the Islamic prophet Muhammad overturned on Wednesday. The ruling provoked violent protests led by the radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party, whose leaders called for the judges responsible for the verdict to be killed along with Bibi.
On Friday, TLP leaders agreed to stop the protests in exchange for putting Bibi on an “exit control list,” which normally is used to prevent flight by wanted terrorists and criminals, CNS News reported. The government also agreed not to oppose efforts to appeal the Supreme Court’s verdict.
The TLP leaders called the prime minister and head of the military enemies of Islam.
TLP was founded from a movement supporting a bodyguard who assassinated a provincial government for advocating for Bibi in 2011. A federal official also was killed after calling for the Christian woman’s release.
While no one has been executed by the government for blasphemy, at least 65 people accused of the “crime” have been murdered by Muslim vigilantes since 1990.
Bibi’s problems began when Muslim co-workers refused to drink water from a cup from which she had taken a sip and demanded she convert to Islam. Her refusal prompted a mob to later allege she had insulted Muhammad. She was convicted in 2010 under section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code that punishes blasphemy against Islam’s prophet with the death penalty. She was sentenced to execution by hanging.
The Supreme Court ruled, however, that the basis of the blasphemy charge was a “concocted” story.
Appeal to the West
The government’s agreement was a retreat from the prime minister’s televised statement warning the protesters “the state will fulfill its duty [to] protect people’s property and lives.”
Bibi is still in prison in Punjab province, even though the Supreme Court ordered she be “released from the jail forthwith if not required to be detained in connection with any other case.”
Bibi’s lawyer Saif Mulook told Reuters he has left the country, fearing for his life. He said he would return to help Bibi if the state provided him protection.
CNS News reported Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, is in Britain with their daughters.
He posted a video appealing to the leaders of Britain, the United States and Canada to help his wife and other family members to leave Pakistan safely.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said Monday, according to the U.S. that the mission “continues to follow the case closely.”
CNS News noted that since 2006, the government has engaged in various agreements to appease TLP that have ended in failure, including withdrawing troops from certain areas, pardoning terrorists and allowing Shariah, or Islamic law, zones.
British Pakistani Christian Association chairman Wilson Chowdhry said in a statement on his group’s website that he’s not surprised the Pakistani government “has caved in to extremists – this is a commonly recurring socio-political trend in Pakistan.”
“Politicians have historically been hijacked by either the extremist groups within the nation or the military, this situation is simply the status quo as far as I am concerned,” he said.
In a column Sunday in the Karachi daily Dawn, security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana wrote: “State appeasement only provides oxygen to extremist groups, increasing their bargaining power.”