Pakistan’s Information Minister, Fawad Chaudry, has declared that Asia Bibi’s life is not in danger despite being barred from seeking asylum in another country.
Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has spent eight years on death row, was acquitted on October 31 of blasphemy charges in a Supreme Court ruling. The court threw out all charges, saying “the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case.”
Mr Chaudry told the BBC World Service in an interview that security surrounding the Pakistani Christian woman has been “beefed up” since mass protests brought major cities to a standstill in the wake of her acquittal on blasphemy charges last week.
“She is in Pakistan and law enforcement agencies are taking care of her; there is no apparent danger to her life as the security is beefed up – there is a security situation and we are dealing with it,” Mr Chaudry said.
“She is in Pakistan and law enforcement agencies are taking care of her.” – Fawad Chaudry
Responding to journalist Julian Marshall’s description of Bibi as being trapped in Pakistan and fearing for her life from extremists on the street, he said a deal had to be done to quell the protests without resorting to bloodshed.
Initially, Prime Minister Imran Khan boldly confronted the protesters. On Friday the government capitulated to them. The Information Minister described the deal with Islamic extremists as “fire-fighting” by a government that had been only 70 days in office.
The climb-down was forced by the threat of violence by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party (TLP), which was founded in 2015 to defend the blasphemy laws. The TLP polled more than two million votes in the July general election.
Mr Chaudry described the mob violence as a “madness we need to cure” by dismantling extremist groups and bringing them into the mainstream.
“It’s a fact that there was a mob and we had to deal with the situation.” – Fawad Chaudry
But he said the government would not allow Bibi to leave the country while a review petition was before the Supreme court.
“That’s a constitutional right of anyone who can file a petition on the Supreme Court and seek a review of the order, it’s nothing to do with the government. They did that but I assure you that her life is not in danger and security is beefed up and there is no issue.
“It’s a fact that there was a mob and we had to deal with the situation, but we have to abide by the Constitution.”
“They cannot even implement an order of the country’s highest court. The struggle for justice must continue.” – Saif-ul-Mulook
“The news that the government has given in to protesters will be devastating to Asia Bibi and her family today,” said Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.
“On Thursday, the Supreme Court declared Asia to be innocent – a free woman. Today, she is free in name only, as the protesters calling for the death of this innocent woman have forced a climb-down from the government. Please pray for Asia, her family and for the Christian minority in Pakistan who are in serious danger today.”
“Yet another government has capitulated to violent religious extremists who neither believe in democracy, nor the Constitution.” – Pakistan newspaper Dawn
Radical Islamist protesters called for Asia and the judges to be killed and for the army to mutiny and overthrow the government. Protesters with posters declaring “Hang Asia,” blockaded roads, declaring they would bring the country to a standstill. They also demanded that the Supreme Court overturn its verdict. Reports say the deal with the government means every protester arrested in the demonstrations will now be released.
Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, who has now left the country to continue the legal fight, described the government’s response as “painful”, adding: “They cannot even implement an order of the country’s highest court. The struggle for justice must continue.”
Pakistan newspaper, Dawn in an editorial, Another Surrender, condemned the government’s actions:
“Yet another government has capitulated to violent religious extremists who neither believe in democracy, nor the Constitution.
“The law had already taken its course and an innocent woman was to be set free after a hellish, near-decade-long ordeal. It is the protesters against whom the law now needed to take its course … the woman expressedly declared innocent by the highest court in the land is to be kept in legal limbo …
“Pakistan, it would seem, was a country with no real leadership while chaos and anarchy spread in the streets once again. The repercussions could quickly manifest themselves in the days ahead.”
Please keep praying for Asia Bibi, her lawyer and for the Christians of Pakistan.