Asiah Bibi, the Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy before she was freed last year, has been eventually flown to Canada where she has reunited with her family, according Guardian UK.
“It is a big day,” Saiful Malook told the Guardian. “Asia Bibi has left Pakistan and reached Canada. She has reunited with her family. Justice has been dispensed.”
Wilson Chaudhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association said the family were living under assumed identities and with security in Canada that he expected would be beefed up with Asia’s arrival.
“I think when time moves on and tensions ease they would be living as normal people without security,” he said.
Because of the danger of being harmed by some extremist, he was reported to have said,
“For sure they would live with some new identities there. They would not use same identities which they have had back in Pakistan.”
It is interestingly to note that the Canadian government declined to comment on the circumstances under which the family would be living in the country. It appears that her arrival in Canada could mark the end of a nine-year ordeal for the farm labourer whose case – based on a dubious accusation she had insulted the prophet Muhammad – became linked to the assassinations of a provincial governor and a cabinet minister and a cause célèbre among Christian and human rights activists.
Islamist groups including Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a movement dedicated to upholding Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, protested for three days after the verdict, paralysing parts of the country until the government struck an agreement that included a promise the case would be appealed. The supreme court upheld the acquittal in January.
Canada had offered Bibi asylum, but close friends had told the Guardian the woman was being prevented from leaving by authorities. Her children left for the country late last year. Malook said Bibi’s safe arrival in Canada was the result of hard work by activists, foreign diplomats and others “who stood by Bibi in hard times and worked for her freedom”.
Asiah Bibi, who is a Roman Catholic from the village of Ittanwala near Lahore, was accused by Muslim villagers of insulting the prophet in a row over a cup of water in June 2009. The supreme court judgment said there was no evidence to support the charge.
Five days after the altercation, a local mosque broadcast allegations she had committed blasphemy and Bibi was dragged from her home by a mob and beaten in the presence of police officers before she was taken into custody.
Asiah was sentenced to death in 2010 in what became Pakistan’s most infamous blasphemy case. She always maintained her innocence. It should also be recalled that one of Bibi’s supporters, the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, was killed by one of his own security guards in January 2011 after he publicly appealed to the president of Pakistan to pardon Bibi.
Taseer was shot 27 times at close range by Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who was showered with rose petals by supporters when he appeared in court. He was executed in 2016.
Pakistan’s first federal minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, who also supported Bibi and called for the reform of blasphemy laws, was killed by self-described Taliban gunmen in March 2011.
The only Christian in the cabinet at the time, Bhatti had predicted his own death and recorded a farewell tape that was released to television channels after he was killed, in which he vowed to fight for Christian and other minority rights whatever the cost.
“I will die to defend their rights,” he said on the tape released to the BBC and al-Jazeera. “These threats and these warnings cannot change my opinions and principles.”
Blasphemy is a highly inflammatory issue in Pakistan, where even unproven accusations of insulting Islam can spark lynchings. Human rights activists say blasphemy charges are frequently used to settle personal scores.
Source, Guardian UK