Many readers will remember the case of Aasia Bibi, the Pakistani woman who went through hell as a result of that country’s infamous blasphemy laws and was given the death sentence. That sentence was overturned but the vindictive religious mobs demanded her public execution and opposed any attempt to get her out of the country. Today comes welcome news that she has finally left that country and gone to join her family in Canada where they will live under assumed names with security.
Bibi, a Roman Catholic from the village of Ittanwala near Lahore, was accused by Muslim villagers of insulting the prophet in a row over a cup of water in June 2009. The supreme court judgment said there was no evidence to support the charge.
Five days after the altercation, a local mosque broadcast allegations she had committed blasphemy and Bibi was dragged from her home by a mob and beaten in the presence of police officers before she was taken into custody.
Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 in what became Pakistan’s most infamous blasphemy case. She always maintained her innocence.
One of Bibi’s highest-profile supporters, the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, was killed by one of his own security guards in January 2011 after he publicly appealed to the president of Pakistan to pardon Bibi.
Taseer was shot 27 times at close range by Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who was showered with rose petals by supporters when he appeared in court. He was executed in 2016.
Pakistan’s first federal minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, who also supported Bibi and called for the reform of blasphemy laws, was killed by self-described Taliban gunmen in March 2011.
Bibi’s escape from the clutches of Pakistan’s religious fanatics is to be welcomed but the menace of that country’s blasphemy laws and the power wielded by religious extremists remains.