130 UK Parliamentarians ask govt to grant political asylum to Aasia Bibi

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LONDON: Around 130 British Parliamentarians have urged the government to sanction political asylum to Christian woman Aasia Bibi and her family as they are not safe in their country Pakistan. Conservative MP Rehman Chishti has written a letter attaching the list of names of parliamentarians who have supported the case ofAasia Bibi recently acquitted in blasphemy case. “I would be grateful for your urgent attention to this matter from Parliamentarians. In light of the urgency of the issue I am sending this letter via email to your office as well”, Rehman Chishti wrote in his letter for the prime minister. Earlier, it was reported that the UK Foreign Office had asked the Home Department not to extend an offer of asylum to AasiaBibi, out of fear for the safety of UK’s consular staff. The initiative was taken by Rehman Chishti MPwho has written that he met with Aasia’s husband and daughter in London ahead of the verdict and they had said that they were considering seeking asylum in the UK among other countries.

“UK must stand up to its moral obligation to do the right thing,” he wrote. “As many of you will know I have campaigned in getting justice for Asia Bibi for a very long time and, along with the former Bishop ofRochesterRtRev Michael Nazir Ali, I previously authored a letter signed by over 55 Members of Parliament from across the House in 2014 addressed to the UK Government and the Government and Judiciary of Pakistan calling for justice in this case”. “As you will know the Supreme Court has acquitted Asia Bibi of all charges. I recently met with the husband and daughter of Asia Bibi in London and they made the point that they were considering seeking asylumin the UK, along with a number of other countries if Asia Bibi was acquitted. “There is a very clear danger to her and herfamily’slivesin Pakistan, highlighted recently by the unacceptable and appalling actions from the mob of religious extremists and the unacceptable decision ofthe Government of Pakistan giving into the demands of the mob, and in light of previous incidents where those acquitted of blasphemy laws, and /or those campaigning for justice in these cases, such as the former Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, have been killed. “The letter to the Prime Minister will simply ask the Government to provide asylum toAsia Bibi and her family if and when a request is made through the appropriate channels, taking into account the exceptional circumstances of this case, the clearthreat to herlife, having been persecuted for her faith, and that the decision to offer asylum would be in line with UK Government’s clear moral commitment to standing up for justice/human rights and respect for religious freedom”. Foreign Office Meanwhile, according to a Guardian report, the British Foreign Office had allegedly refused to grant asylum to Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was acquitted by the Supreme Court from blasphemy chargeslast month, due to fear for the safety of UK consular staff in Pakistan. Aasia Bibi is seeking asylum after threats to her life in Pakistan. Former UK foreign secretaryBoris Johnson was among many members of Parliament (MPs) calling for her and herfamily to be granted sanctuary in Britain. The acquittal of the 53-yearold by the Supreme Court prompted demonstrations by hardline Islamist parties in Pakistan who had campaigned for her to be hanged. She remains in protective custody in an undisclosed location in Pakistan after Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to allow a petition against the court’s decision as part of a deal to halt the protests. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, has appealed for help to Britain, Canada, Italy and the US but the UK high commissioner in Islamabad isreported to have warned he could not protect hisstaffif asylum was granted by the UK. Tom Tugendhat, the foreign affairs select committee chair, asked the British FO Permanent Secretary Sir Simon McDonald, whetherthe episode “does notraise the question that eitherstaffshould be withdrawn orsecurity increased or otherwise UK policy is effectively dictated to by a mob?”. Tugendhat took the committee into lengthy private session after McDonald said he did not wish to give evidence in public on a such a sensitive issue. McDonald defendedBritain’s efforts to find a third country to take Bibi, saying this would allow UK policy objectives to be achieved without any risk to its staff. Tugendhat said the episode represented “one ofthe clearest examples of free conscience being challenged today”. The senior Labour MP Mike Gapes said: “Given the clear inability of this new Pakistani government of Imran Khan to stop these mobs from intimidating and killing Christians in Pakistan, is it not time to reassess our relations with Pakistan? There are big concernsifreligious minoritiesin Pakistan are not safe.” McDonald saidBritain’srelationship with Pakistan relationship was important to both countries. He added: “If the objective is to protect life and some other country can provide some more complete safe harbour, why should the UK not be open to working with that country?” The Pakistan foreign office confirmed on Tuesday that it had been holding talks with the Canadian foreign ministry over granting Bibi asylum. Confirmation of talks between the two governments came after Canadian Prime Minister JustinTrudeau said on Monday his government was talking to Pakistan about the case. “We are in discussions with the Pakistani government,” Trudeau said in an interview with Agence FrancePresse (AFP) in Paris, where he was attending a peace conference organised by the French President Emmanuel Macron. Shah Mahmood Qureshi Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Wednesday ruled out possibility of Asia Bibi’s leaving the country before the Supreme Court ruling on review petition. The foreign minister was of the view that how she can leave the country when a review petition against the Supreme Court ruling in a blasphemy case against her is in the Supreme Court. He was speaking to the media after attending a meeting ofthe standing committee on foreign affairs. Qureshi said he briefed the committee members on the PTI government’s foreign policy. The participants ofthemeeting strongly condemned atrocities being committed by the Indian security forces in Indian occupied Kashmir.