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Asylum for Asia Bibi

The husband of Asia Bibi has raised the very real possibility of the former farm labourer becoming the victim of targeted violence as she continues to languish in jail for a crime for which she has been acquitted. Indeed, Ashiq Masih has called on western powers to offer asylum to he, his wife and their children. And given that British Prime Minister Theresa May last week briefed Parliament about the courage of the judiciary in delivering its verdict — it is now hoped that she will do the needful and grant the family warm shelter. It was the right thing to do for Malala Yousafzai. And it is the right thing to do for Asia Bibi; the great British class system notwithstanding.
For the unpalatable truth is that to remain here in this country will mean certain death. Already the media has published and aired images of one of Asia Bibi’s daughters in all her heartfelt sorrow. And while it is always important to humanise suffering, this unnecessarily puts she and her siblings under an unwelcome spotlight. Indeed, defence counsel Saif-ul-Mulook has already fled to Europe to save his life; so that he can fight this case to the bitter end. Meanwhile, the Centre reiterates its message that speaks of a duty of care to all minority communities. To uphold the constitutional rights of both non-Muslims and “other citizens”. This certainly looks good on paper. As does the denunciation of those who violently took to the streets last week as having no connection to any religion.
Yet this has simply allowed the political leadership to bask in the glow of having come together to uphold the state’s writ during the recent unrest. As the Imran Khan government sees it, such mature pragmatism demonstrated to the whole world that Pakistan stood firm and united before the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and other groups belonging to the religious right.
Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif, for his part, was quick to point out that the opposition parties did not exploit the situation. Seen another way, this points to collective complicity in state capitulation.
None of which is good enough. Not when specific communities, judges and lawyers have faced death threats and will do so again if the outcome of the review petition is not in accordance with the demands of the TLP and its ilk. And then there is the question of how it must never be left up to those suffering persecution to appeal for asylum. It is therefore hoped that the Human Rights ministry is working quietly behind the scenes with friendly western nations to secure the safe passage of Asia Bibi and her family.



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