Husband of acquitted Pakistani Christian seeks asylum in West; Radical cleric threatens ‘war’

by WorldTribune Staff, November 5, 2018

After his Christian wife was acquitted of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad, sparking violent protests, a Pakistani man is pleading with the West to help his family in their quest for asylum.

“I am requesting President Donald Trump to help us to leave [Pakistan], and I am requesting the prime minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom,” Ashiq Masih said in a video message on Nov. 4.

Asia Bibi

Masih’s wife, Asia Bibi, a mother of five, spent eight years on death row for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad before Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Oct. 31 overturned her conviction and ordered her to be freed, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on Nov. 5.

“The current situation is very dangerous for us. We have no security and are hiding here and there, frequently changing our location,” Masih said.

Pakistani police said that more than 150 people were arrested on charges including arson, vandalism, and violence during demonstrations that erupted after the court’s decision to free Bibi.

Multiple European nations have offered Bibi and her family asylum, but under a new agreement the Pakistani government struck with the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party (TLP), which has been a major organizer of the protests, Bibi cannot leave until the verdict is appealed.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor of committing the crime has led to lynchings in the past, the RFE/RL report said.

Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The lawyer who defended Bibi in the Pakistani courts said on Nov. 5 that the United Nations and European Union made him leave Pakistan “against my wishes” because his life was at risk.

Saiful Mulook told a press conference in The Hague, Netherlands, that he contacted a UN official in Islamabad after Islamist violence erupted following the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“And then they and the European nation ambassadors in Islamabad, they kept me for three days and then put me on a plane against my wishes,” Mulook said.

The lawyer earlier said he had left Pakistan “to save [my] life from an angry mob” and because of fears for the safety of his family.

Pakistani cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi said that “there will be a war” if Pakistani authorities allow Bibi out of the country. The cleric’s TLP party blocked roads for three days and threatened Supreme Court judges who acquitted Bibi.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said it requested that Twitter suspend the account of Rizvi, saying the cleric incited “hate and violence” by urging the cooks and servants of the Supreme Court judges to kill them.

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