January 1, 2019
Saif ul Malook REUTERS/Eva Plevier
Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman cleared of blasphemy charges, spent Christmas in a safe house in Islamabad, and it is not immediately known when another country will agree to take her in.
Saif ul Malook, the lawyer who represented her, fled his country two months ago and he believes he will have to stay away from Pakistan for at least two years before he could return safely.
He plans to continue living with his friends in the Netherlands or with his daughter in Britian till then. “But I yearn to return home to continue defending victims of the blasphemy laws,” said Malook in a piece in The Hamilton Spectator.
Bibi was sentenced to death by a district court in 2010 for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad and the Quran. Malook took on Bibi’s case in 2014 because he did not “want to see anyone falsely convicted of a crime, much less hanged for it.”
Late last year, a three-justice panel of the Pakistani supreme court overturned her 2010 conviction and death sentence for blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad. Her acquittal led hardline Islamist leaders to call for the death of the judges who made the decision.
Following widespread protests, the government barred Bibi from leaving the country.
“I am not surprised that Imran Khan’s regime has caved into extremists,” Wilson Chowdhry, chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association, was quoted as saying by the Independent.
“Asia Bibi and her entire family are in need of immediate asylum. She and her family have suffered enough, she just needs a country willing to cut through the bureaucracy.
“Every moment that she stays in Pakistan, Asia Bibi remains a lightning rod for radical extremists.”