After nine years on death row in Pakistan she has finally arrived in Canada

Asia Bibi, a Christian who spent an agonizing nine years on death row in Pakistan, finally reached Canada. The mother of two daughters came to the North American country after Canada offered her asylum. She was reported to be of weak health when she touched Canadian soil. Pakistani government officials confirmed her departure. They declined to state her destination. Although her exit from Pakistan had brought relief to religious freedom campaigners, her ordeal may persist for some time. Islamic extremists have promised to pursue the 53-year-old and assassinate her for her so-called blasphemy crimes. She was acquitted of them in Pakistani courts. It is possible that Bibi may spend the rest of her life always looking over her shoulder.

Bibi was jailed in 2010 on a blasphemy charge conviction and subsequently given a death sentence. The charges were brought forward from 2009 when accusations were made that she made disparaging remarks concerning the Islamic prophet Muhammad. She had an argument with another woman-a Muslim- over a cup filled with water. The Christian woman immediately appealed the conviction. The Lahore High Court in 2014 upheld the original verdict. She then submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The highest court in the land consented to hear her case in 2015 and acquitted Bibi on all charges on October 31, 2018.

Bibi had, by then, had acquired global support from many world leaders who requested her immediate release. Both the present Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict XVI asked the Pakistani Government to release her. Francis even met her daughter in 2015 and offered prayers.

For Asia Bibi, conditions were not good in Pakistan. Islamic fundamentalists continuously call for her to be executed. Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, has expressed his support for the country’s medieval harsh blasphemy laws. These laws impose horrific punishment on individuals who desecrate the Quran or insult or defame Muhammad. The state religion of Pakistan is Islam, and 97 percent of the country’s population follows the Islamic faith.

Even though Bibi was finally free from prison, she suffered a legal limbo while negotiations were being done to find her family and her a safe new home. The family went underground claiming that Islamic extremists were hunting them, even visiting every house with her photograph. Canada ultimately became her new country.

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