Asia Bibi, in hiding after blasphemy acquittal, is banned from leaving Pakistan

Pakistani religious groups protest against a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Asia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Nov. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

LAHORE, Pakistan (RNS) — It has been a month since Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy, but her ordeal is far from over.

A Christian woman who spent nine years in prison for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty, Bibi is now in hiding in a government safe house along with her husband, Ashiq Masih.

“We’re afraid,” said Joseph Nadeem, who serves as the guardian of two of Bibi’s daughters while she lives in secret. “In recent days, the Islamists have fired at the gate of our home. We are constantly receiving threats and on more than one occasion we have been followed.”

Exoneration in a blasphemy case in Pakistan rarely means one can start afresh. Instead, those acquitted of the charges face persecution from religious groups that refuse to recognize the jurisdiction of the courts.

Often, they must leave the country.

But following countrywide protests by religious extremists after the Oct. 31 verdict, Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to prohibit Bibi from leaving Pakistan. Australian, Canadian and Dutch diplomats are reportedly negotiating with the Pakistani government for her release so she might travel to one of those countries for asylum.

Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denied reports that Bibi had already left Pakistan.

“There is no truth in reports of her leaving the country,” he said. “It is fake news.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May came under fire for refusing to offer Bibi a safe haven. Asked about the issue recently in Parliament, May said she was working to help the woman.

“The absolute prime concern that we must have is the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family,” said May.” And we want to see a swift resolution of the situation.”

Ashraf Asim Jalali, second from left, leader of Pakistan’s far-right Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik, addresses a news conference in Lahore, Pakistan, on Nov. 8, 2018, regarding the acquittal of Christian woman Asia Bibi. After nine years on death row in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy, Bibi was released, but her whereabouts in Islamabad remain a closely guarded secret in the wake of demands by radical Islamists that she be publicly executed. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, noted that women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai and author Salman Rushdie received asylum in the U.K. when extremists targeted them for violence.

“Does this mean that the U.K. has now capitulated to extremists and is now under the stranglehold of extremists?” said Chowdhry. “Does this mean the U.K. is now held hostage to extremist encroachment? This is a sad set of affairs for a country once lauded for its human rights record.”

Persecution of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan is rampant, he added.

Last week, in a crackdown against the Tehreek-e-Labbaik — the group that organized the protests that erupted after Bibi’s acquittal — police arrested hundreds of its members, including the group’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi. He is now in protective custody.

Government critics said the move was only for show, contending that Pakistani officials are allied with Rizvi and his followers.

“The current government that stood on Rizvi’s side and used the blasphemy card against its opponents has little legitimacy to deal with these Islamists,” said Rubina Saigol, an independent political analyst based in Lahore. “Even if the civilian government has the will to take down these extremists, we know that the intelligence agencies of the country have long had an unholy alliance with these sectarian and religious outfits.”

Bibi’s daughter Eisham Ashiq, 18, is holding out hope that she and her parents can be reunited somewhere abroad soon. She recently appeared in a video thanking those who supported her mother.

“Thanks to everyone who prayed for my mother,” she said. “I would also like to thank the great judges and the Pakistani justice system that recognized my mother’s innocence.”

Meanwhile, others accused of blasphemy remain under threat in the country.

Sawan Masih, a Christian, was sentenced to death in March 2014 for allegedly blaspheming the Prophet. He said his Muslim accusers were trying to obtain his property. After he was accused in 2013, a mob attacked his home and churches in the Christian district of Lahore.

His family awaits justice and sees hope and fear in Bibi’s verdict.

“I am very happy that Asia is free and, someday, I hope my husband can also come home,” said Sobia Masih, his wife. “But when I see (how) the situation (developed) after her release, I fear for Sawan’s safety in prison.

“My daughters Romika and Noor miss their father,” she added. “They have been devoid of his love through no fault of ours.”

About the author

Naila Inayat


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  • This is where religious fundamentalism inevitably leads – death for blasphemy as defined by those in power.

  • Just imagine if evangelicals in the US had more influence than they do now? The idea makes me shudder! Thank god for our secular government.

  • Funny how every muslim nation is a hellhole.

    And the only muslim nations that appear to be decent, have merely the veneer of wealth that oil has brought- scratch the surface and it’s blackness alright.

    The worst thing the West can do is to bring imams from undeveloped nations to the West. When that happens in the USA/CANADA/UK/AUSTRALIA/NZ those imams are then elevated to the same rank of religious leader within Islam and they then decree that a man beating his wife is permitted as the quran says so.

    # If the imams come from villages without water or power then they have no access to ideas or values other than the barbarity of the quran.

    Pakistan is an Islamic septic tank.

  • Hopefully she’ll get asylum and end the nightmare. Read in the news this morning that a group of ministers are urging Trump to bring her here.

  • When it comes to violence against women, US domestic murder rates of women are skewed to the bible belt. Ill-treatment of women doesn’t stop with one religion.

  • Nope.
    That’s another leftist fallacy. You show us the stat’s that prove your belief.
    Now, here’s some stat’s on Islamic honor killings: First up there’s the article link below:

    Next is the abstract from within the article which contains statistics on domestic violence against women in Pakistan:

    I know that doesn’t work for you because you lack the intelligence to overcome the hatreds the liberal left have inculcated within your heart and mind but you really need to show your proofs, otherwise you’re just another ignorant liberal buffoon.

  • Scratching my head trying to figure out the relevance of the link you provided. Around a third of the bible belt states (with the exception of Utah which remains mid level throughout) become the mid range states or low range states for domestic violence if you look at the maps provided therein.

    Look, there are 3 maps provided in that link. 98 shows high mortality rate in the Southern bible belt states but then the rate in those bible belt states decreases in 03. Then in the 2012 map we are given high, mid and low brackets and you can clearly see that 3 or 4 of those states move down to mid level or low level states for domestic violence.

    Firstly a bible belt state means what exactly? Big difference between a nation state that was set up to be an Islamic nation state and a state that once had many Christians in it.

    Now some liberal is going to try and take the data and claim that the Southern states aren’t as bad as they were because there are less Christians therein now, as the WaPo article claims Christianity is on the decrease across the USA.
    Well leftwits, if you can claim that by looking at the data then we can also claim that the reason states like Montana go from 0 domestic violence deaths to becoming a mid range death count state is because Christianity is on the decline!

    The original poster claimed that ill-treatment of women doesn’t belong to one faith so let me just ask you where in the old testament, new testament, Book of Mormon is there a verse advocating domestic violence against women?

    Nope, there isn’t a single verse advocating domestic violence in those 3 books of scripture.

    Violence is clearly articulated as being a good thing within the quran though.

    Quran 4:34. is the culprit (though liberals don’t like it when we scrutinize the actual beliefs of islam) and cause of all honor beatings & slayings.
    Now, I’m listing 6 different translations of the same verse so you can clearly discern the vileness of the original verse:

    “Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God has gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them.
    Virtuous women are obedient, careful, during the husband’s absence, because God has of them been careful. But chide those for whose refractoriness you have cause to fear; remove them into beds apart, and scourge them:
    but if they are obedient to you, then seek not occasion against them: verily, God is High, Great!” (Rodwell’s version of the Koran, Quran,

    “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them.
    Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.
    Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.” (Dawood’s version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)

    “Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret
    that which Allah has guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion,admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is
    ever High Exalted, Great.” (Pickthall’s version of the Koran, Quran,

    “Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them.
    If they then obey you, look not for any way against them; God is All high, All great.” (Arberry’s version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)

    “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has
    guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in their sleeping places and beat them;
    then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. (Shakir’s version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)

    “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means.
    Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard.
    As to those women on whom part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly);but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of
    annoyance) for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (Ali’s version of the Koran, Quran, 4:34)

  • Scratching my head trying to figure out the relevance of the link you provided.

    Yeah, reading comprehension and statistics can be difficult for some people. Good for you for trying though, even if you fall short. However, it’s really quite simple: the numbers are higher in bible-belt-states.

    The original poster claimed that ill-treatment of women doesn’t belong to one faith so let me just ask you where in the old testament, new testament, Book of Mormon is there a verse advocating domestic violence against women?

    Well, that didn’t take long to find… Jephthah’s daughter (Judg. 11:29–40) and the Levite’s concubine (Judg. 19). Amazing the kinds of things Google turns up. Then there’s all the stuff about requiring men to rule over women and women to be silent (Gen. 3:16, Eph. 5:22-24, Col. 3:18, Titus 2:4-5, 1 Peter 3:1, Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Cor. 11:3, 1 Cor. 14:34-36), all of which imply violence if the woman is considered to be “out of line” per se.

    a once Christian nation.

    A common misconception, the United States was never a Christian nation, as a nation is defined by its government/laws. Yes, the United States is still a predominantly Christian people, but never a Christian nation, as our Constitution is secular by design.

  • EPIC FAILS from you, and I’m not erasing this thread because I want EVERYONE TO SEE what a disingenuous lying piece of liberal crap you are. Yes, I said crap because it is indeed your stock and trade.

    Judges 11: 29-40 is an historical record alright but there are no calls to follow any actions therein. Do you speak English and comprehend what advocating means ?

    Judges 19 Also no advocating.

    Then you quote a whole lot of verses, each being historical records but yet again, no calls for anyone to follow them.
    Look, when you learn to read, you come back with something intelligent and I’ll gladly read it. The fact is that you can’t find any verse advocating for violence against women in the Old Testament. Yes there’s a verse or two that talks about women being obedient to their husbands but, they are not calls to violence.

    # I suggest you stick with reddit and twitter where you can write total liberal crap and nobody will call you out for it, but here,well, if you represented an organization (no dumb libs are not an org), I would copy and paste what you’ve said as a record and take it to the Anti Defamation League- I would roast you publicly for your deceptions and make sure everyone knew what a lying piece of crap you are.

  • EPIC FAILS from you

    In your opinion. And you’re entitled to be as wrong as you’d like.

    and I’m not erasing this thread

    No one asked you to erase it, nor do you have the ability to do so, except for your own comments. Clearly, statistics and reading comprehension are not your only shortcomings.

    I want EVERYONE TO SEE what a disingenuous lying piece of liberal crap you are.

    That’s going to be quite difficult, as I am neither lying nor a liberal.

    Judges 11: 29-40 is an historical record alright but there are no calls to follow any actions therein.

    Historical record? Hardly. Fairy tales, more likely, but that’s distracting from the point. Jephthah burned his daughter, on purpose. That qualifies as domestic violence, regardless of his reasoning. But his god commanded it, so that is a call to follow action. Do you speak English and comprehend what advocating means?

    The fact is that I met your challenge and found many verses advocating for violence against women in both the Old and New Testaments, but you are incapable of admitting when you’re wrong, so I see no point in furthering this discourse.

    Good day, and be well, Alex.

  • Like I said, no verses in the Old Testament advocating violence against women.

    # Proved my point by NoMoreBadTown not being able to show a single verse advocating violence.

    ( I only wish NoMoreBadTown had have revealed who she works for because I would love to publicly humiliate that business for employing such a lying piece of crap)

  • Because you can’t defend your own views, you resort to lies, deflection, childish name-calling, and doxxing threats. Very telling, Alex.

    And if you must know, I work for the United States government. Good luck humiliating them… have you seen the people in office? LOL

  • Sorry, but there’s also the story of Noah’s ark in the Old Testament- that account does not advocate collecting up animals and putting them on a giant boat.

    Hmm, and the story of the talking donkey does not tell you to talk to donkeys and expect answers back in your own language.

    Your ‘argument’ that because a record is kept, that means it is a commandment to follow it and do it, is so facile and reductionist that I can’t help wondering if your government job is garbage collecting?

  • So your “argument” then is that nothing in the bible is to be followed? The bible doesn’t tell women to be submissive (or else)?

    Also highlighting your rampant ignorance: garbage collection is typically performed at the local (city/county, not federal) level, and usually contracted out to private entities.

  • Your responses are imbecilic.

    Everything you’ve argued is incorrect and now, you expect respect for your government job because you’ve failed to discredit the Old Testament and bring it down to the level of the quran, which was your initial intention.

    Sorry fool but the quran, with its open-ended admonitions to declare war on any who disbelieve -while beating your disobedient wife- is a book of hatreds.

    Now, you get one more chance to write something worthwhile before I block you for being another time wasting dope.

  • Your responses are imbecilic.

    The feeling is mutual, Alex.

    Everything you’ve argued is incorrect

    Wrong. You just can’t admit it, though.

    you expect respect for your government job

    Where did I ask or insist on this? I didn’t, so you’re wrong again, Alex.

    you’ve failed to discredit the Old Testament

    The OT discredits itself, it needs no help from me. LOL

    and bring it down to the level of the quran, which was your initial intention.

    This was never my intent, nor was it the intent of the original poster. All we’ve been saying is that no one faith has a monopoly on misogynistic violence. Are they all equally guilty? No, of course not, some are clearly worse than others. However, Alex, they’re all still guilty.

    So yes, I can agree with you that the Koran is a “book of hatreds”. However, so is your bible. Not as severe, perhaps, but still on the spectrum of hate.

    Now, you get one more chance to write something worthwhile before I block you for being another time wasting dope.

    Yes, please, go ahead and admit defeat by blocking me. I welcome your silence, Alex.