After Asia Bibi’s lawyer flees country, husband appeals for asylum in United Kingdom

Ashiq Masih, the husband of a Christian woman whose acquittal on blasphemy charges has erupted protests across Pakistan, said that he is worried for his wife’s safety

After Asia Bibi’s lawyer flees country, husband appeals for asylum in United Kingdom
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NH Web Desk

Ashiq Masih, the husband of a Christian woman whose acquittal on blasphemy charges has shaken Pakistan, said that he is worried for his wife's safety.

Supreme Court overturned her conviction on Wednesday, stating that the case against her was based on flimsy evidence.

Her acquittal sparked violent protests, and the government has now agreed to try to stop her leaving the country.

Ashiq in a video message requested for asylum from the prime minister of UK and said he feared for his family's safety. He had also called on Canadian and US leaders for help.

"I am requesting the prime minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom," he said.

Earlier, in an interview Ashiq said he and his family were "frightened" after Pakistan's authorities struck a deal with the hardline Tehreek-i-Labaik (TLP) party in order to end protests over Asia Bibi's acquittal. The government promised to immediately initiate a legal process to place Bibi's name on the Exit Control List. The government will also not prevent protesters legally challenging the Supreme Court decision to release her. According to the agreement, all protesters arrested since Bibi's acquittal will be released and any violence towards them will be investigated.

The lawyer earlier this week said that Bibi would need to move to a Western country for her own safety. A number of attempts have previously been made on her life. Several countries have offered her asylum.

Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry defended the government against allegations that the deal reached with the Islamist party was capitulating to extremists. He said the government would "take all steps necessary" to ensure Bibi's safety.

Mulook, however, called the agreement "painful".

Earlier Prime Minister Imran Khan had defended the top court's judgment in a televised address, saying it was in accordance with the Constitution and appealed to the protesters not to challenge the state.

At least two public figures -- former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and minority minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian -- were assassinated in 2011 for supporting Bibi and opposing the blasphemy law.

"The agreement has sent a shiver down my spine," Mr Masih told DW. "It is wrong to set a precedent in which you pile pressure onto the judiciary."

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

He added: "My wife, Asia Bibi, has already suffered greatly. She has spent 10 years in jail. My daughters were dying to see her free, but now this review petition will prolong her plight."

Earlier on Saturday, lawyer of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was acquitted of blasphemy charges after eight years on death row, left the country on Saturday, saying his life was under threat.

Following the Supreme Court's decision last week, religious parties staged protests in major cities across the country and incited violence against lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook as well as the judges.

Mulook claimed he was facing threats from sections of lawyers and it was difficult for him to practise in the prevailing situation, the Express Tribune reported.

The apex court on October 31 ordered Bibi's immediate release stating that blasphemy charges could not be proven against her. She was accused by two women of insulting Prophet Muhammad in 2009 and a court sentenced her to death in 2010.

Talking to the Express Tribune, Malook said that he would return to Pakistan to represent Asia at hearing of the review petition if the Army provided him security.

"My family is also facing immense security threat and the federal government should provide security to them," he said.

The lawyer earlier this week had said that Bibi would need to move to a Western country for her own safety. A number of attempts have previously been made on her life. Several countries have offered her asylum.

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