Originally published in Sky News
The daughter of a Pakistani woman freed after eight years on death row has thanked supporters and spoken of fears for her family’s safety.
Eisham Ashiq has spoken publicly for the first time since her mother Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy.
The mother-of-five was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in a dispute with her neighbours and spent much of her time in prison in solitary confinement.
The decision by a Pakistani court to free her sparked widespread protests by hardline Islamists across the country and forced Ms Bibi and her family into hiding.
Unfortunately, not long after her release, protests erupted in Pakistan. And, according to Open Doors, not long after that the man who filed the official complaint against Asia in 2009, Qari Muhammad Salaam, filed a review petition.
This means that a juridical review committee will, in fact, review the Supreme Court decision and it is possible that the extremists’ pressure leads to a reversal of the verdict.
Speaking from a safe house in Pakistan, Eisham said: “Thank you everybody for praying for my mother. I’d also like to thank the brave judges and the Pakistani justice system that recognise my mother’s innocence.
“I’d also like to thank all the governments — the Italian government that are concerned about our future and safety.
“Thanks God, she (Ms Bibi) is free and I hope our entire family is finally happy and free. Thanks to all of you for praying for my mother and persecuted Christians.”
The Christian family know they have religious enemies who want them dead.
John Pontifax, from the charity Aid to the Church in Need, told us he had spoken with Ms Ashiq. He said: “They are living almost as fugitives with mullahs going house to house looking for them.”
The family are appealing for international asylum and several countries including Canada, the Netherlands and Italy are believed to be in discussions to take them in.
Possible consequences of offering asylum
Concerns have been raised that Britain might not be keen to offer the family asylum because of fears of triggering reprisals against its diplomatic buildings in Pakistan or sparking protests in the UK.
Outside the East London Mosque, several people told Sky News protests of some sort could be a possibility.
One man said: “There are people who may support her coming but there’s a risk if she comes here it could cause protests.
“It could be 50-50. There are some people who might not say anything and there are some people who think this is not right. There is some risk of demonstrations if she comes here.”
But another said: “There shouldn’t be protests in this country. Whatever has happened in Pakistan is Pakistan’s business. There shouldn’t be protests here if she were given asylum.
“There are other ways of making a statement — you don’t need to protest. If anyone takes to the streets they are people without an education.
“If you follow true Islam this is not how you deal with the situation. These people who protest these guys are not following the true religion.”
The Muslim Council of Britain described the suggestion Asia Bibi might be refused asylum because of the concerns of British Muslims as “nonsensical and divisive”.
Open Doors Southern Africa urgently ask you to please pray:
- For Asia’s safety and everyone around her.
- For the safety of Asia’s lawyer and the Supreme Court justices — all of whom have been threatened.
- For Christians in the country who are on high alert after the protests.
- That the media will report and share this story responsibly — irresponsible reporting is causing many problems.