Freed by court, Pakistani Christian woman still lives life of a prisoner
Islamabad - In her hideout, she longs for her children who were taken to Canada for their safety.
Published: Thu 17 Jan 2019, 7:38 AM
Last updated: Thu 17 Jan 2019, 9:44 AM
Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian acquitted of blasphemy, still lives the life of a prisoner, nearly three months after her release from death row, awaiting a final ruling on her fate.
She spends her days in seclusion for fear of being targeted by angry mobs clamouring for her death. In her hideout, she longs for her children who were taken to Canada for their safety. Pakistani security forces guarding the 54-year-old Bibi prevent her from opening a window in her hiding place, let alone go outside, a friend said.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is weighing a petition by radicals and right-wing religious parties that rallied against her acquittal and demand her execution. Her case goes to the core of one of Pakistan's most controversial issues - the blasphemy law, often used to settle scores or intimidate followers of Pakistan's minority religions. Just making an accusation is sometimes enough to whip up vengeful mobs, even if the courts acquit defendants.
A provincial governor who defended Bibi was shot and killed, as was a government minority minister who dared question the blasphemy law. Bibi's ordeal began on a hot day in 2009, with a row with fellow farmworkers after two Muslim women refused to drink water from the same container as a Christian. They demanded she convert, and she refused. Five days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy. She was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. After eight years on death row, the Supreme Court acquitted her on October 31.
At the time, her lawyer Saif-ul Malook, who has since been driven into exile fearing for his life, argued that the many inconsistencies in the testimony of her accusers vindicated her. From her secret location, which authorities maintain is for her own protection, Bibi is not allowed by Pakistan's security forces to give interviews. Even her friends and those few who have access to her are afraid to be identified and agreed to talk to a reporter only on condition of anonymity.
One of her friends says Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, who was wounded by a gunshot fired by a protester calling for Bibi's death, is with her in hiding. Her two daughters, Eisham, 20 and Esha, 19, were spirited out of Pakistan.
Aasia hopes for family reunion
> Christian woman longing for her children who were taken to Canada for their safety.
> Aasia was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy
> From her secret location, Bibi is not allowed by the forces to give interviews
> Bibi's only hope is that someday the family will be reunited abroad