After more than six months in protective custody from radical Muslims following the overturning of her death sentence for “blasphemy” against Muhammad, Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi has fled to Canada, according to her lawyer.
A Pakistani court convicted Bibi in 2009 of insulting Islam’s prophet. She spent eight years on death row before her conviction was overturned in October by the Supreme Court. But radical Muslims calling for her death immediately took to the streets, some searching house-to-house to carry out what they viewed as unfulfilled justice under Islamic law. In January, the Supreme Court upheld its October decision in a review that was part of a deal the government struck with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, whose members sought to kill her. Her exit from the country, however, was blocked by the army amid continued threats.
On Tuesday, an official in Islamabad confirmed to Fox News that Bibi, 54, left Pakistan for Canada. Her lawyer, Saif-ul Malook, said she had already arrived in Canada to be reunited with her daughters.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted,
“Fantastic news that Asia Bibi appears to have left Pakistan safely.”
Hunt said he was about to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to talk about persecution of Christians around the world.”
WND reported Hunt told the U.K. Parliament earlier in April the British government was negotiating her freedom.
Bibi was convicted 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.
Supreme Court: ‘concocted’ story
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.
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.
‘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.”