Islamabad: October 15, 2018. (PCP) Militant Islamists are demanding the hanging of Asia Bibi and their rioting is bring the country to a standstill. Many cities have been targeted with large numbers of rioters in the thousands smashing public buildings and openly inciting the murder of any judges or Government officials who may give freedom to Asia Bibi.
While large numbers of Muslims pray for Asia's death and clamor for her blood quite conversely Christians are entering their churches and praying for her freedom. Millions of Christians have been involved in prayerful fasting and say despite the threat to them they want the ailing mother of five to be set free.
Christian leaders are demanding the protection of their communities and churches as hundreds of churches have been threatened with severe violence and death if Asia Bibi is set free. To date no official response has been given to their demands for freedom.
The Supreme Court deliberations on Asia Bibi's death sentence appeal, will mean nothing if Pakistan's militant Islamist parties have anything to do with it and they do not want to be confused with the facts or the evidence of the case. They simply want to murder Asia Bibi to assuage their hatred for the Christian minority living in their midst.
One of the most vocal and aggressive of these groups, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) are galvanizing their efforts to "pre-empt Asia Bibi's acquittal" converged on The Mall in Lahore and other major centres, including Karachi, Multan and Gujranwala to make their demands. Warnings from TLP that they will shut down the country within hours if the Supreme Court sets Asia Bibi free are being made and success with their aim is entirely possible as they have done this before over the changing of a Muslim oath for lawmakers and civil servants (click here)- no perpetrators were ever arrested. TLP local leaders in cities across the nation have already been directed on Friday, to start holding sit-ins within hours, without waiting for a decision by the central leadership, if she is freed.
Ironically the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan leader Kahdim Hussain Rizvi and Afzal Qadri, patron-in-chief of the TLP have referred to the constitution in their rallies to back their actions. This is the same constitution that is repeatedly quoted to silence the human rights concerns in Pakistan raised by international humanitarian groups and western governments.
It would seem reasonable that given the circumstances of the case and the clear lack of evidence that Pakistani Muslims would want Asia Bibi freed and reunited with her family after her long incarceration if for no other reason, but to show that the truth matters to them; that as Muslims they have compassion for their fellow man; and that Pakistan is an honest country operated on a functioning constitution.
There are indeed some Muslims, who in their idea of a perfect world would have things this way, but it is yet to be seen whether enough of them live in Pakistan to support a just decision in Asia Bibi's case. However, the World should no longer tolerate the lie that religious minorities suffer no persecution or discrimination in Pakistan. There should be no shifting blame for the violations of human rights that have already occurred.
It is the simmering hatred that causes calls for uprising. What the western world does not understand is that the accepted proposition thought reasonable is for the majority faith to be considered more important or even more human than those of different faiths. The vicious and precipitous hatred towards minority others is very concretely acted out when there is an opportunity and should not to be treated as a figment of the imagination.
The TLP leaders are demanding Prime Minister Imran Khan clarify his policy on blasphemy laws and that policy be in line with the electorate's interpretation of Constitution - a nebulous, shifting demand that undermines the rule of law and heaps contempt on the Supreme Court.
Pir Afzal Qadri, patron-in-chief of the TLP warned that any acquittal would be considered an attack against Islam at an anti-Asia Bibi rally, criticizing the Justices said:
"Judges' remarks have sown doubt among the party leaders and fears that she would be released soon."
Mr Qadri continuing to utter threats saying that instructions for mass protests have already been released and would be imminent within hours of Asia Bibi's possible acquittal, added:
"Nationwide sit-ins should continue till all those responsible for [Asia Bibi's] release are punished, even if the central leadership is incarcerated or killed".
TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi wrapped up by challenging the Justices to a televised debate on the blasphemy law and breaches of the law and told party faithful to be ready for nationwide sit-ins.
"Stay ready and wait for Tuesday when another important announcement would be made."
In Karachi where participants chanted slogans for protection of blasphemy laws, the TLP also rallied warn the government against leniency in blasphemy cases. Rally participants not only demanded the execution of Aasia Bibi, but threatened action against anyone campaigning for her release.
However, it remains to be seen if the world is taking the increasing normalization of such threats from Pakistani's political groups seriously.
Extremists groups have a considerable following in Pakistan and there have even been calls to make the assassin of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer - who called for freedom for Asia Bibi - a saint after he was executed for his crime (click here). Sadly, hundreds of thousands of Pakistani Muslims in the UK echo this and declared Qadri's sainthood in a petition in the wake of his death. Mumtaz Qadri has already inspired the killing of an Ahmadi religion follower in Glasgow.
Christians in Pakistan are adamant that Asia Bibi should be freed and not one wishes for her to either be kept in prison or to be executed, despite the imminent risk that they will face, if the government and law courts of Pakistan choose to be just in her appeal decision. However, a palpable fear has encompassed communities as threats increase and riots increase in size and number across the nation. Churches have made demands for increased security in the wake of a just and positive decision and thees must be taken seriously.
BPCA Lead Officer Mehwish Bhatti said: "The ongoing protest in Pakistan by extremists' group with regards to Asia's possible release is a great concern for the whole Christian community in Pakistan. We all want Asia to be released and at the same time being a minority we want assurance of peace and security.
"I implore the Government of Pakistan to induce special measures to protect Christians in Pakistan. The past attacks on Christians have not been forgotten many from the communities of Rimsha Masih's village, and Gojra are still homeless.
"Christians should not be seen as anything other trhan equal citizens and our quality of life should not be diminished by our choice of faith."
Wilson Chowdhry said: "The alarming situation in Pakistan evidences the impossibility for Asia Bibi and her family to remain in Pakistan.
"This animosity towards her is so intense that two politicians, Christian Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Muslim Punjab Governor Salman Taseer were assassinated in 2011 for merely calling for her release. Moreover, when one of the assassins was executed the great majority of Muslims in Pakistan and 100,000 in the UK called for the killer to be named a saint.
"Having met with Ashiq and Eisham Masih over the past two weeks, they truly believe that Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and his cohorts will exonerate Asia of all charges, based on assurances made by senior officials.
"Similar positive statements are being given to the BPCA via western leaders.
"Once a positive ruling is declared Asia and her entire family must be given immediate asylum in a safe country. Mnay offer allow for her two dependant children to travel with her but not those who are married. it would not be fair to seperate Asia Bibi from any members of her family considering she has already spent 9 years away from them."
He added: "It is imperative that vulnerable Christian communities are afforded seamless security until the brunt of this smouldering hatred simmers down.
"There is more than potential for pogrom-like violence against Churches and Christian communities. We remember victims of Gojra, St Joseph's Colony, Shanti Nagar, Mardan and Gujaranwala to name a few.
"We are praying that the government sees fit to ensure the safety and rights of religious minorities in the face of these threats.
"The very fact that extremists are allowed to incite hatred and have already declared intent to shutdown the country, even before hearing the explanation for any possible judgement, is extremely disturbing.
"This contempt of the Supreme Court and the accompanying calls to paralyze the country, are illegal acts in and of themselves, yet the authorities stand idly by.
"The apathy by statutory authorities to refrain such abuse of the law have created a culture of impunity for crimes against minorities. This has allowed the growth of extremism and intolerance and brought the quality of life for Christians and minorities to its lowest ebb.
Burgeoning concerns are concurrently happening in Thailand, where Pakistan has promised to pay for the deportation of Pakistani Asylum-seekers as raids are being conducted every day in Bangkok with at least a 120 men, women, and children being captured within the last few days, including many who have already been approved as legitimate UNHCR Refugees and those who already have private sponsors in Canada or Australia.
The travesty of these actions should not go unnoticed! During the most unstable and threatening time possible, these vulnerable Christians who have already fled Pakistan because of fears for their lives should not be sent back to face an angry mob incensed by the freedom of Asia Bibi. We cannot think of a worse time to send Pakistani Christians back to their homeland than now, whilst rioters are baying for the blood of Christians.