OTTAWA: A Pakistani Roman Catholic Christian woman Asia Bibi, waiting agonizingly on death row for eight long years after she was falsely blamed of blasphemy, has reached Canada from Pakistan today.
The United Nations and several international agencies had earlier demanded her release. In fact, Pakistan was put under international pressure to allow her to go abroad or wherever she wanted to go. Her children had earlier left Pakistan for Canada.
The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself has taken the issue of Asia Bibi and extended all his help to ensure that she is re-settled in Canada after her release.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan exonerated her of the blasphemy blame four months ago. Asia Bibi created a massive global flutter for being falsely accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by her Muslim neighbour.
Subsequently, she was sentenced to death as blasphemy or insult to the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran is punishable by capital punishment. Often the Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadis are charged with blasphemy by their Muslim neighbours. Nearly 200 non-Muslims are currently on death row for blasphemy.
Though the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan defends the blasphemy law he agreed to allow a petition against the decision of death sentence against the Christian woman and allowed her to leave the country. Asia Bibi, a mother of five children, was given asylum by Canada.
Pending her flight to Canada, Asia Bibi was kept under government protection at a secret place in Pakistan as the local people often attack those charged with blasphemy but released by the court.
Reacting to Asia Begum’s arrival in Canada, Paul Robinson, the Chief Executive of the global rights body Release International, told the media that everybody is “overjoyed” at her release. Robinson said the time has ripened when the Pakistani government must release other Christians on death row and safeguard its Christian minority against mob reprisals.
Paul Coleman, the Executive Director of ADF International, said the plight and persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan Paul must end.
“Sadly, Asia Bibi’s case is not an isolated incident but testifies to the plight that many Christians and other religious minorities experience in Pakistan today,” he added.
The Christians make about 1.6% of the population of Pakistan where Islam is the state religion. The two Pakistani Television channels – Geo and ARY – ran special reports on Asia Bibi’s leaving the country.
Image Credit: Church Times (UK)