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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Asia Bibi leaves for Canada: Lessons for Pakistan

Asia left Pakistan and reunited her two daughters in Ottawa. Analysts laud Pakistan’s efforts to ensure her safety and handling such a sensitive case.

News Analysis |

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, has left the country, officials have confirmed. She has reportedly left for Canada where she reunited with her two daughters and husband and has already been given Canadian citizenship.

Asia Bibi was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan last year on blasphemy charges. After the verdict of the apex court, Pakistan had to see street protests and some religious fanatics chanting anti-state slogans.

Analysts believe that Pakistan needs to focus on reforming the education system in order to move towards enlightened modernization.

Since many religious leaders and their supporters did not want Asia to leave the country, in such stifling atmosphere the decision of the incumbent government of letting her go of her own choice has been appreciated by many experts and political analysts.

Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, tweeted, “Certainly, it took a long time to get Asia Bibi out. Still, in the end, credit is due to the Pakistani state for how it handled such a sensitive matter. It got the religious hardliners off the streets. Bibi got out safely. And since she left they’ve been quiet (at least for now)”.

Read more: Asia Bibi case: Understanding ‘divine law’ for the evil voices

Asia Bibi Case: Background

According to details, Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and a death-row prisoner was convicted of blasphemy in Nov 2010. Media reports suggest that in June 2009, Asia was involved in an argument with a group of women. Subsequently, she was accused of blasphemy (she allegedly insulted Islam and used derogatory words against the scared personalities, according to the people she had an argument with).

In 2010, a lower court after listening to the arguments from both sides and looking into the available evidence awarded her capital punishment. In 2014, the Lahore High Court (LHC) upheld her death sentence despite criticism from some segments of civil society and international media.

Read more: Should Asia Bibi be given asylum? Top Pakistani Judge says NO

However, the apex court had issued a stay order on her execution in July 2015. The stay order was issued by the top court since the case had become controversial and complex which demanded more deliberation to be concluded. Finally, the SC heard the case and acquitted Asia Bibi because of lack of evidence.

“Pakistan still got a long way to go”

GVS approached G-M Pitafi, academic and political analyst, for his comments on the development of the issue. “I would like to appreciate the incumbent govt. for its unwavering and unflinching commitment to ensure the rule of law, and not bowing down before religious extremists. It has made Pakistan proud,” he said.

Mr. Pitafi also pointed out that the government has to persistently work on changing mindset in Pakistan where minorities have to face social marginalization and political under-representation. “I was sad to see that someone known as a security analyst in Pakistan was making ludicrous claims after Asia was acquitted and left for Canada”.  Mr. Pitafi was alluding to Zaid Hamid’s tweet which garnered disapproval from analysts and public alike.

Read more: SC rejects petition against Asia Bibi’s acquittal


He also maintained that the case of Asia Bibi was a test case for the apex court in Pakistan which has now proven that the courts cannot be pressurized into getting verdicts of one’s choice. But there is a long way for the current government to go, added Mr. Pitafi.

Read more: Asia Bibi will soon leave the country: PM Khan

Analysts believe that Pakistan needs to focus on reforming the education system in order to move towards enlightened modernization. The 21st-century thinking is missing in Pakistan’s socio-religious discourse which demands immediate attention and carefully developed reform package.