Husband of Freed Pakistani Christian Woman Asia Bibi Appeals to President Trump for Asylum in the U.S.

The acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian accused of blasphemy, spurred protests by Islamic political parties in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Friday.
T Mughal/EPA, via Shutterstock

The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted after spending eight years on death row on blasphemy charges has appealed to President Trump for refuge, citing danger to the family’s lives.

Ashiq Masih, the husband of Asia Bibi, whose case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, also appealed to Britain and Canada for assistance.

The appeal came as the police said they had arrested more than 150 people on charges of arson, vandalism and violence during the protests that erupted after Ms. Bibi’s acquittal. A senior police officer, Nayab Haider, said on Sunday that officers were using video to identify others involved in committing assaults, torching property and vehicles, and blocking highways, The Associated Press said.

The Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik blocked major roads in Pakistan’s biggest cities for three days, calling for the killing of the Supreme Court judges who acquitted Ms. Bibi on Wednesday, and terming Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country’s army chief enemies of Islam.

Tehreek-e-Labaik called off the protests late Friday after striking a deal with the government that could see the authorities moving to put Ms. Bibi on an “exit control list” barring her from leaving the country and opening a review of the verdict.

“I am requesting the president of the United States, Donald Trump, to help us exit from Pakistan,” Mr. Masih said in a video recorded by the British Pakistani Christian Association and seen by Reuters.

“I also request the prime minister of the United Kingdom to help us,” he said. “I also request the prime minister of Canada.” He also requested help on behalf of his brother Joseph Nadeem, who has assisted with Ms. Bibi’s case.

The United States Embassy and the high commissions of Britain and Canada in Islamabad did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the video.

On Saturday, Ms. Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook, told Reuters that he had left Pakistan, fearing for his life and the safety of his family.

Ms. Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after being accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam when neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. She has denied having committed any offense.

Her case caught the attention of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province. He was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2011, after waging a public campaign to save Ms. Bibi’s life and to change the blasphemy laws — a move that angered his bodyguard. Tehreek-e-Labaik was founded out of a movement to support Mr. Taseer’s assassin, who was hanged in 2016.

The federal minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also killed after calling for Ms. Bibi’s release.

Ms. Bibi’s location is unknown, but Tehreek-e-Labaik has warned the authorities not to take her out of the country.

“There will be a war if they send Asia out of country,” the party’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, said after the deal with the government was reached.

Islamist parties have characterized Ms. Bibi’s release as Pakistan’s government caving into Western demands.

SOURCE: Reuters