Asia’s lawyer leaves Pakistan citing threats to life

Hardliners allowed to appeal against her acquittal

4 November, 2018 12:00 AM printer

Asia’s lawyer leaves Pakistan citing threats to life

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani lawyer who saved a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy from the gallows left the country on Saturday, saying his life was under threat, reports AFP.

Saif-ul-Mulook’s latest victory saw the freeing of Asia Bibi, who spent nearly a decade on death row, after the Supreme Court overturned her sentence on Wednesday. The decision sparked protests across the country, with major roads blocked in Lahore and Islamabad as religious hardliners called for the death of the judges and those who helped acquit Bibi.

“In the current scenario, it’s not possible for me to live in Pakistan,” the 62-year-old told AFP before boarding a plane to Europe early Saturday morning.

“I need to stay alive as I still have to fight the legal battle for Asia Bibi,” he said.

Blasphemy is a massively inflammatory charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammed can provoke death at the hands of vigilantes.

On Friday night, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party (TLP), which has largely led the demonstrations, announced an end to mass protests after reaching a deal with the government.

Meanwhile, the fate of a Pakistani Christian woman accused of blasphemy was in limbo Saturday after the government allowed Islamist hardliners to appeal against her acquittal and put her on a no fly list. Asia Bibi’s lawyer who saved her from the gallows left the country early Saturday after threats to his life.

Bibi, who had been on death row since 2010, was acquitted of all charges by Pakistan’s Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday, triggering protests by Islamist hardliners who paralysed the country for three days blocking roads and disrupting traffic in major cities. The protesters however ended their action Friday night after the government reached a controversial deal to put Bibi on the no fly list and saying it would not object to an appeal against the verdict, which was filed earlier in the Supreme Court.

“We have requested the Supreme Court to put Asia Bibi on the Exit Control List as soon as possible so that she could not fly out of the country,” Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the lawyer of Qari Salam who filed the case against Bibi, told AFP. “We fear that she would be flown out of the country so we have requested the court for a early hearing of the case,” he said adding that he would “exploit all legal remedies to make sure Asia Bibi is hanged according to the law”.