By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman recently acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row has pleaded for asylum from Western countries, saying his family was in great danger in Pakistan.
“I am requesting [U.S.] President Donald Trump to help us to leave [the country], and I am requesting the prime minister of the U.K. help us and as far as possible grant us freedom,” Asia Bibi’s husband said in a video message, news agencies reported on November 4.
The husband, Ashiq Masih, also called on Canadian leaders for help.
Bibi, a 54-year-old mother of four, was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad — a charge she has denied.
The case has attracted global attention, and several countries have offered Bibi asylum.
The Supreme Court overturned Bibi’s conviction on October 30, sparking three days of violent, nationwide protests by hard-line Islamists demanding Bibi’s execution.
The demonstrations mostly ended on November 2 after the government agreed to impose a travel ban on Bibi and to allow her case to be reviewed.
The government is now facing criticism for making a deal with the radical Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan party (TLP) and for failing to take action against the leaders of the protests.
However, the Interior Ministry has promised to register cases against “all those miscreants who under the guise of peaceful protests caused destruction to property and harmed unarmed citizens.”
Criminal cases have been registered against hundreds of demonstrators and protest organizers, Dawn newspaper reported on November 4.
Senior police officer Nayab Haider said that more than 150 people were arrested on charges of arson, vandalism, and violence during the demonstrations. He said that police were using video clips to identify those involved in assaults, torching property and vehicles, and blocking highways.
A government official estimated that the protesters caused around $1.2 billion in damages.
On November 4 in the southern port city of Karachi, some 2,000 supporters of an Islamic party held a protest march against Bibi’s acquittal but they remained peaceful.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor of committing the crime can incite lynching.
Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.