Aasia Bibi spent eight years on death row in Pakistan. But today, the woman dubbed “most hated person in Pakistan” is reunited with her family and is safely out of the country.
Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2009 after quarreling with fellow farmworkers. Bibi is Catholic. Those women claimed she insulted Islam’s prophet Mohammed.
In November 2018, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction. (See Woman Freed in Pakistan.) She no longer faced the death penalty, but she wasn’t truly free either. Bibi was held in protective custody for months.
Finally, Aasia Bibi has left Pakistan. She and her husband, Ashiq Masih, have joined their daughters in Canada, according to both Pakistani officials and Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul Malook. The British Pakistani Christian Association worked to bring international attention to Bibi’s case. The organization says that the blasphemy charge originated from one statement the woman made to others at a well in the field where they were working. Angered that a “Christian” (or any non-Muslim) would drink from their well, the other women allegedly beat and berated Bibi. She responded to their assault by saying, “My Christ died for me. What did Mohammed do for you?”
Under the rule of Islam’s harshest law, that statement was enough to earn her death.
The case brought international attention to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty automatically. Extreme Islamists use blasphemy allegations and threats to control and suppress other religious minorities there.
Those extremists rioted. They stirred up rage and threats of retaliation among other followers of Islam. They’ve even demanded an overthrow of the government following Bibi’s acquittal. While Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed not to be intimidated by the rioters, he also denied permission for Bibi to leave the country until sentiments against her and the court’s reversal cooled. That took nearly half a year.
The individuals who charged Bibi with blasphemy were charged themselves after the initial court decision was overturned. A panel of three judges accused her accusers of committing perjury—or lying in court. But they won’t be tried for that violation, due to “the sensitivity of the case,” officials say.
(Aasia Bibi in 2010, listens to officials at a prison near Lahore, Pakistan. After serving eight years in prison and another six months in protective custody, Bibi is finally out of Pakistan and reunited with her family in Canada. AP Photo)