Asia Bibi’s plight has attracted attention around the globe with an increasing number of politicians speaking out on her behalf.

More than 230 politicians from 28 countries have written an open letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, calling on him to uphold the Supreme Court’s acquittal and enable Asia Bibi to leave Pakistan.

UK Parliament MP Rehman Chishti resigned from his position as Trade Envoy to Pakistan on 15 November, citing the government’s treatment of Asia Bibi as a reason for his resignation. In his letter of resignation he wrote, “the British government is failing to put into practice the core values that our country stands for; religious freedom, justice … and that when we see injustice where an individual’s life is in clear danger and they have been persecuted for their faith, we do all we can to help.” 

Prime Minister Theresa May was asked about Asia Bibi during Prime Minister’s Questions on 14 November. She once more failed to mention religious freedom or condemn Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws, but did state concern for the “security and safety” of Asia Bibi and her family and that a number of countries were in discussion about providing a “safe destination” for them. However, May refused to comment on Labour MP Emily Thornberry’s question, “But is she [Asia] welcome here [in the UK]?”

A number of UK politicians have called for the UK to join several other nations in openly offering a haven to Asia Bibi and her family. Lord Alton of Liverpool also called into question the government’s international aid payments to Pakistan, stating, “Britain needs to do two things. First, give her [Asia] sanctuary here. And second, until they uphold the rule of law and protect the country’s minorities, we should redirect the £380,000 we give every day to Pakistan – £2.8 billion over the past two decades – to more worthy recipients.” 

Australian politicians have also lobbied for Asia to be freed. Australian aid assistance to Pakistan has also openly been called into question. Senator Eric Abetz called on the Australian government to reconsider its “relatively generous” aid package to Pakistan, adding “minority religions have been dealt with in such a horrid way for decade after decade now”. According to unverified news reports, the Australian government has refused to join the countries offering refuge to Asia Bibi.

U.S. Republican Senator Rand Paul discussed Asia’s Bibi with President Trump on 15 November, later telling reporters, “I know from his concern for the pastor in Turkey and working to get that pastor out that it would be consistent with what they did with the pastor in Turkey to help get Asia Bibi out, and I hope they will.” 

The Senator also spoke of raising money to assist Asia and her family to reach the U.S. However, any departure from Pakistan would have to be arranged at a government level and at present, there is therefore no reason for any organisation to request donations to help Asia Bibi and her family leave the country.

Date published: 26/11/2018
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