Asia Bibi gets support from Norway and Canada
“Bibi has gotten the freedom she deserves but she and her family are still at high risk of being killed in Pakistan”, said Abid Raja, MP Norway and member of the IPPFoRB Steering Committee
Burning cars, violent mobs and hateful placards – this was the immediate response of protestors in Pakistan against Aasiya Noreen – also known as Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who has been recently acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. In this landmark judgement, all charges of blasphemy were dropped against Bibi after almost 10 years.
Raja noted, “it is obvious that Asia Bibi, a Christian minority, and her family risk being killed by the mob in Pakistan. It is also uncertain whether Pakistan will be able to provide her with the protection needed.”
Released from prison on October 31, Bibi’s whereabouts remain undisclosed to the general public. However, various parliamentarians from around the world, in their personal capacity, have urged their governments to grant Bibi and her family asylum in their country.
The members of the Canadian Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (CANFoRB), a national group of parliamentarians defending freedom of religion or belief in Canada, recently sent a letter to the Canadian authorities advocating for Bibi to be given asylum in Canada. David Anderson, MP Canada, Chair of the IPPFoRB Steering Committee and member of CANFoRB said:
“Asia Bibi was imprisoned on spurious charges, which have no place in a Pakistan that claims to respect international human rights standards of thought, conscience and belief. Her safety and security are paramount. I was proud to add my name to a CANFoRB letter calling for her immediate asylum in Canada.”
In Norway, Abid Raja also urged the Norwegian authorities to support Bibi and her family through this uncertain period.
“As Norway has a close relationship with Pakistan, it is my personal opinion that Asia Bibi should be given asylum in Norway”
History of the case
On the morning of 31st October 2018, Bibi was acquitted of all blasphemy charges against her.
“Parliamentarians across world have been working for her release over the years that she has been imprisoned and I am delighted that our efforts have finally been rewarded. The decision to free Bibi is an important victory for human rights”, expressed Raja.
Held on death row since 2010, Asia Bibi, a religious minority in Pakistan, was convicted for blasphemy for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad while working in a field as a day labourer in 2009. Under Pakistani law, such an offence carries a mandatory death penalty. No one has ever been executed under the laws, but some people accused of the offence have been murdered in the past.
“Asia Bibi has spent almost ten years in prison under unsubstantiated charges of blasphemy. The suffering that she and her family have experienced are slowly coming to an end”, said Raja.
Blasphemy laws need to be reviewed globally
Asia Bibi, who was born and raised in Punjab, Pakistan was the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistani blasphemy laws. Speaking of the need for a wider review of the blasphemy laws, Raja said:
“Blasphemy laws, in Pakistan and in many countries across the world, should be reviewed as they threaten free and open discourse on freedom of religion or belief, often affecting religious minorities the most.”
While Raja believes this verdict is an example of a commitment to human rights, especially freedom of religion or belief, he said, “the situation for religious minorities is critical in many countries. Things have not improved in recent years but are instead on the wrong track”.