‘Help us leave Pakistan’– Asia Bibi’s family beg for asylum
The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted on charges of blasphemy last week has begged Theresa May to grant his wife and their family asylum in the UK.
In a video message seen by the Observer, Asia Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih called on the prime minister to “help us exit from Pakistan” where thousands of people have protested against the supreme court’s ruling and demanded that she be punished.
The plea came a day after Imran Khan’s government announced it would try to prevent Bibi from leaving the country, which her supporters likened to “signing her death warrant”.
Bibi, a farm labourer, spent eight years on death row after being falsely accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad. This followed a row after she had sipped water from the same cup as a Muslim. Yesterday her lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, said he had fled Pakistan in fear of his life.
In the message recorded yesterday, Masih, 55, called on May, as well as the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and US president Donald Trump, to bring his family and their longstanding guardian, Joseph Nadeem, to safety in the west.
Wilson Chowdhry, of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said Masih had applied for asylum at one western embassy but it was not expediting the request. Chowdhry said the family needed “immediate asylum”, adding it was “incredible” no government had stepped forward so far. “It would not do for her to die because of red tape,” he said. The association has launched a petition calling on Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, to grant Bibi’s family asylum.
Last night a senior Conservative MP urged the Foreign Office to raise Bibi’s case with the Pakistani government. Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said: “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.”
Pakistan’s 3 million Christians are lying low in the aftermath of the court ruling. The government ordered them not to attend the graves of family members on All Soul’s Day, which fell on Friday, saying that large gatherings could present a target for attack.
One senior community member told the Observer he had removed the cross from his car’s rear view mirror.
Asia Bibi spent eight years on death row in Pakistan.