When Asia Bibi’s death sentence and conviction for “blaspheming” Islam and its prophet were overturned by the Pakistani Supreme Court — releasing her from prison after eight years — her problems were not over.
Radical Muslims took to the streets in protest of the Oct. 31 decision, and some searched house-to-house to carry out what they viewed as unfulfilled justice under Islamic law.
Consequently, Bibi had been forced to live under the “protective custody” of Pakistani authorities since her release from prison in November.
Now, Bibi has arrived in Canada with her husband, her lawyer told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine early Friday.
“She is united with her family,” Saif-ul-Malook said.
Bibi’s two daughters already live in Canada.
The paper said that for security reasons, the lawyer did not disclose any further details about Bibi’s departure from Pakistan. Previous reports, according to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, said Bibi could not leave her native country aboard a regular flight.
Her departure came after the Pakistan Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition by radical Muslims to review the acquittal.
The review was part of a deal the government struck with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, whose members sought to kill her.
But he warned that even in Canada, with “its rapidly growing Muslim population, she will not be safe from Muslims determined to murder her for supposedly insulting Muhammad.”
Bibi was on death row for eight years after her conviction in 2010 under section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code, which punishes blasphemy against Islam’s prophet. She was sentenced to execution by hanging.
Her problems began when, according to her testimony, 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, she said, prompted a mob to later allege she had insulted Muhammad.
The Supreme Court ruled Oct. 31 that the basis of the blasphemy charge was a “concocted” story and overturned the guilty verdict.
After her release from Multan, Pakistan’s women prison on Nov. 7, Bibi was flown to Islamabad and taken to an undisclosed place amid tight security, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.
Following her acquittal and the death threats, Bibi’s supporters asked the United States to grant her asylum after she apparently was rejected by Britain.
As WND reported, an advocate for Bibi in the United Kingdom said the British government turned her down because her entry would cause unrest among Muslims and pose a security threat to British embassies in the Muslim world.
The White House and the American Center for Law and Justice, which fought for Bibi’s freedom for more than four years, have declined to comment regarding Bibi’s asylum appeal. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, President Trump’s personal lawyer, was a key advocate for American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was released from a Turkish prison last month.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has said that the mission “continues to follow the case closely.”
The Trump administration, wrote M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy in a tweet, “has an opportunity to not only do what’s right and humane for Asia Bibi but change the immigration narrative re dissidents.”
Ayan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born critic of Islam known as an advocate for the rights of Muslim women, tweeted, “If Britain won’t offer Asia Bibi asylum, Trump should.”
‘Appeasement only provides oxygen’
While no one has been executed by the Pakistani government for blasphemy, at least 65 people accused of the “crime” have been murdered by Muslim vigilantes since 1990.
CNS News noted that since 2006, the government has engaged in various agreements to appease the Islamic party TLP that have ended in failure, including withdrawing troops from certain areas, pardoning terrorists and allowing Shariah, or Islamic law, zones.
Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association said he was 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 in Dawn, security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana wrote: “State appeasement only provides oxygen to extremist groups, increasing their bargaining power.”