Radical Islamists calling for the death of Christian woman Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges have included children in their protests. A video published by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) on Monday depicted boys hanging a doll and demanding the government do the same to Bibi.
Riots involving thousands of Islamists, mainly led by the anti-blasphemy Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, have broken out across the nation since the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned Bibi’s 2010 death penalty verdict for alleged blasphemy last Wednesday.
On Monday, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of Muslim-political parties in Pakistan, announced that it would take part in the anti-Bibi protests by holding a “million march” in Karachi on Thursday.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reports:
JUI-Fazl Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose party is one of several that constitutes the multi-party MMA alliance, had announced that a “million march” would be held in the port city, where he said “the future strategy” on the issue would be chalked out. Rehman’s party today recapitulated their plans, urging party workers to gather at Shahrah-e-Quaideen on November 8.
Although the supreme court has ordered authorities to release Bibi, she remains imprisoned.
In an effort to quell these violent protests, the Pakistani government reached an agreement whereby it will impose a travel ban upon Asia Bibi, effectively preventing her from leaving Pakistan and finding a safe haven. In exchange, the TLP will call for an end to the violent protests. As part of the agreement, the Pakistani government has agreed that it will not object to an appeal against Asia Bibi’s release.
BPCA revealed that TLP Islamists filed a petition on Monday to the Lahore Supreme Court challenging Asia Bibi’s acquittal.
As Islamabad began talks with rally organizers to end their protests last week, Ghulam Mustafa, the lawyer representing the provincial cleric who filed the initial blasphemy charges against Bibi, also petitioned the Supreme Court judges to review her acquittal.
According to the Associated Press (AP), “Pakistan’s Supreme Court has not been known to reverse its decisions, but court reviews typically take years. Bibi’s ordeal will continue until the review is completed.”
Ashiq Masih, Bibi’s husband, accused Islamabad of capitulating to the Islamist protesters who have threatened to kill the Christian mother, her lawyer, and the judges who cleared her.
BPCA quotes Masih as saying:
Our family was elated by the recent decision to free my wife but news of the government’s capitulation to the rioters who [want] us all dead has broken our hearts … That fundamentalists can cause our government to shift direction, alarms me, but I trust our God will give freedom and peace to Asia – through the prayers of our many millions of supporters who are not violent.
Wilson Chowdhry, the BPCA chairman, blasted Pakistan for allowing Islamists to challenge the supreme court’s verdict in favor of Bibi’s release, stressing:
The farce of appeal after appeal, with judges stepping out at the last minute that has gone on for almost 10 years cannot be lost on the World. Why are these human right abuses and these clearly unacceptable blasphemy laws in Pakistan so often ignored?
Prohibiting her departure from Pakistan means she will never have a moments peace, and makes her a more open target for extra-judicial killing by restricting her movement.
Human rights groups argue that Islamists often use Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which can carry a punishment of life in prison or even death, to target religious minorities and settle personal vendettas.
Chowdhry urged Christians across the world to pray for Bibi and world leaders to grant asylum to her and anyone associated with this case.
“We call on world leaders to take a stand for truth and justice and open their doors for asylum to Asia Bibi, her entire family, and also the family of Joseph Nadeem their longtime guardian,” he said.
“BPCA is appealing to the British, American, Australian and Canadian governments for her family and guardian’s family to be given immediate asylum as they need to be urgently evacuated from the situation,” the organization notes.