On 31 October 2018, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Aasia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam. Mrs Bibi, who is barred from leaving Pakistan, has been in hiding since. Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and other groups organised violent protests following her acquittal, making death threats against her and the judges who had reached the verdict.
A lawyer representing a provincial cleric in Punjab who had filed the initial blasphemy charges against Mrs Bibi has petitioned the Supreme Court requesting that the judges review her acquittal. Similar reviews have taken years to process.
According to Aid to the Church in Need, Joseph Nadeem and his family, who have assisted Mrs Bibi and her husband for some years, are themselves in danger and living in hiding together with the daughters of Mrs Bibi. “Just as soon as Aasia was acquitted, we were forced to flee”, he recalls. “Aasia and her husband are currently in a place of safety, protected by the government, but we could not remain with them”, he explains. Ever since then Mr Nadeem and his family, together with the daughters of Aasia, have had to keep on the move, changing homes four times so far.
Several countries have offered asylum to Mrs Bibi and her family, but some Brtish newspapers have claimed that British Prime Minister Theresa May refused an appeal by Home Secretary Sajid Javid to offer Mrs Bibi and her family asylum in the UK. They allege that the request was turned down by the Prime Minister over fears that it could stir up tensions among British Muslims and compromise the safety of British officials in Islamabad. During Prime Minister’s Questions, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith asked the Prime Minister if there was any truth to the reports. She replied that he ‘should not necessarily believe everything he reads in the papers’ and insisted that Britain was working for the ‘safety and security’ of Mrs Bibi and her family. Rehman Chishti resigned as Conservative Party Vice Chairman and the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Pakistan, citing Britain’s failure to offer asylum to Mrs Bibi as one of the reasons.