The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted after spending eight years on death row on charges of blasphemy has appealed to US President Donald Trump for refuge, citing danger to family members’ lives.
- The ultra-right TLP party called for the murder of the judges who acquitted Asia Bibi
- More than 150 protesting against the acquittal were arrested on arson, vandalism and violence charges
- The TLP struck a deal with the Government which could put Ms Bibi on an “exit control list”
Ashiq Masih, the husband of 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.
“Please help us, we are in trouble in Pakistan,” Mr Masih appealed to Mr Trump in a brief video message.
“I also request the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to help us, I also request the Prime Minister of Canada,” he added, while also asking for help on behalf of his brother, Joseph Nadeem, who has assisted with Ms Bibi’s case.
The US Embassy and British and Canadian high commissions in Islamabad did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the video.
Pakistan’s top court acquitted Ms Bibi on Wednesday (local time) of the charges carrying the death penalty, infuriating hard-line Islamists who held three days of nationwide protests demanding her execution.
The ultra-right Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party blocked major roads in Pakistan’s biggest cities during the protests, calling for the murder of the Supreme Court judges who acquitted Ms Bibi and labelling 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 Ms Bibi on an “exit control list”, barring her from leaving the country and open a review of the verdict in the courts.
But enraged protesters had already torched scores of vehicles and attacked government and public property.
Police said over 150 people were arrested on charges of arson, vandalism and violence.
Protesters in Hyderabad burn an effigy of Asia Bibi, who had spent eight years on death row. (AP: Pervez Masih)
Senior police officer Nayab Haider said police were using video clips to identify those involved in assaults, torching property and vehicles, and blocking highways.
Defending the police’s actions, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the Government could not spare those involved in violence. He said the Government cleared blocked cities without any bloodshed.
“No government can tolerate a rebellion against the state,” Mr Chaudhry said.
‘There will be a war if they send Asia out of the country’
On Saturday, Ms Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook, said he had left Pakistan “to save [my] life from [the] angry mob” and because of fears for the safety of his family.
Ms Bibi 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.
She has always denied committing blasphemy.
Her case caught the attention of then Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer who spoke in Ms Bibi’s defence before being assassinated by his bodyguard in 2011.
The TLP was founded out of a movement to support Mr Taseer’s assassin, who was hanged in 2016.
Federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was also killed after calling for her release.
Protests against Pakistan’s blasphemy verdict had brought life to a standstill in areas around the country. (AP: KM Chaudary)
Ms 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 characterised Ms Bibi’s release as Pakistan’s Government caving into Western demands.