Asia Bibi, Released by Pakistan, Arrives in Canada

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman freed from death row last year, has arrived in Canada, according to her lawyer, Saif Malook.

“Good News!” Franklin Graham tweeted upon learning of Bibi’s arrival in Canada. “We thank God that Asia Bibi is now safe & reunited with her family in Canada after being persecuted for her faith in Jesus Christ & spending 8 years on death row in Pakistan.”

“It is a big day,” Malook told the Guardian. “Justice has been dispensed.”

A former farmworker, Bibi was accused of insulting Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, during an argument with a group of Muslim women. She was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death by hanging in the heavily Muslim nation. But in 2018, after an international outcry of injustice, Pakistan’s top court overturned her conviction.

Bibi’s acquittal sparked violent protests throughout the country led by the Islamic group Tahreek-e-Labbaik. Bibi was forced to stay in prison for several days after her acquittal due to concerns for her safety. Once released from jail, she was held in safe houses, moving frequently, to protect her from assassination attempts.

One of Bibi’s highest-profile supporters, the governor of Punjab state, Salman Taseer, was killed by his own security guard in January 2011 after he publicly appealed to the president of Pakistan to pardon Bibi. Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s first federal minister for minority affairs, was also killed in March 2011 after offering his support to Bibi and calling for reform of the country’s blasphemy laws.

Islamic extremists have pledged to pursue Bibi and kill her—no matter where she is in the world. The Guardian reports that Canadian authorities have a plan in place, which may include offering Bibi a new identity.

Bibi’s children have been in Canada since late last year.

“We are delighted that Asia Bibi has, at long last, been released,” said Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International. “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. While the right to religious freedom is protected by the Pakistani constitution, many face severe persecution and denial of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

Pakistan is number five on Open Doors’ list of countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.

 

Header Image: The daughters of Asia Bibi pose with an image of their mother while standing outside their residence in Sheikhupura located in Pakistan’s Punjab Province November 13, 2010.

Photo Credit: Newscom