World

Blasphemy case woman in Pakistan seeks Canadian assistance

The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges and in fear for her life has appealed to Canada, the U.S. and Britain to help get her out of Pakistan.

Top court acquitted Asia Bibi last week in a move that has infuriated hardline Islamists

Supporters of Islamist political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F protest for a second consecutive day in Peshawar on Nov. 2, after Pakistan's Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian accused of blasphemy, and annulled her death sentence for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. (Bilawal Arbab/EPA-EFE)

The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted after spending eight years on death row on charges of blasphemy has appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump for refuge, citing danger to family members' lives.

Ashiq Masih, who is married to Asia Bibi, whose case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, also appealed to the United Kingdom and Canada for assistance.

The ultra-right Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party blocked major roads in Pakistan's biggest cities for three days, calling for the murder of the Supreme Court judges who acquitted Asia Bibi on Wednesday, and terming Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country's army chief enemies of Islam.

The TLP called off the protests late on Friday after striking a deal with the government that could see authorities seek to put Bibi on an "exit control list" barring her from leaving the country and open a review of the verdict in the courts.

"I am requesting the President of the United States Donald Trump to help us exit from Pakistan," Masih said in a video recorded by the British Pakistani Christian Association and seen by Reuters.

Canadian, U.K. leaders asked for help

"I also request the prime minister of the United Kingdom to help us, I also request the prime minister of Canada," he said, while also asking for help on behalf of his brother Jospeh Nadeem who has assisted with Bibi's case.

The U.S. Embassy and British and Canadian High Commissions in Islamabad did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the video.

On Saturday, Bibi's lawyer Saiful Mulook told Reuters he had left Pakistan "to save [my] life from angry mob" and because of fears for the safety of his family.

Bibi, 47, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Her case caught the attention of then Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer who spoke in Bibi's defence before being assassinated by his bodyguard in 2011. The TLP was founded out of a movement to support Taseer's assassin, who was hanged in 2016.

Federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was also killed after calling for her release.

Bibi's family and Mulook say she never insulted the prophet. In previous hearings, Mulook pointed to contradictions in testimony from witnesses.

A Pakistani supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, holds an image of Asia Bibi during a protest on Friday in Islamabad, following the Supreme Court's decision to acquit the Christian woman of blasphemy. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, rejected the acquittal, saying Bibi had confessed to making derogatory remarks against the prophet to seek a pardon.

Bibi's whereabouts are unknown, but the TLP has warned the authorities against taking her out of the country.

"There will be a war if they send Asia out of country," TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi said after the deal with the government was reached.

Islamist parties have characterized Bibi's release as Pakistan's government caving into Western demands.

With files from The Associated Press

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