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Call to Action: The UN and Other Western Nations Must Act Immediately to Save Asia Bibi

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British Pakistani Christian Association requested asylum be granted to Asia Bibi by the Australian government and they sent us a correspondence declining to do so. After viewing that response Australian citizen Lara Hall submitted the following opinion article as a call to action.

In 2010, Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi, was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging pursuant to Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. Although she was accused of blasphemy, in reality, her single crime was drinking a cup of water from a communal well in a primarily Muslim community. Sadly, many blasphemy cases are often contrived to alienate, repress and vilify the Christian minority. The blasphemy laws are being used to wound an already marginalised community.

She spent 8 years largely in solitary confinement languishing in squalid conditions on death row as her case was being reviewed. In the interim, some of her supporters including Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Governor, Salmaan Taseer, were both brutally executed for their advocacy efforts. Taseer was shot 27 times in the back by his own security detail.

In October 2018, in an unprecedented verdict, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Asia of blasphemy, therein completely exonerating her of any wrongdoing. However, her life and the lives of her family and associates remain in the balance as the UN and Western nations continue to profoundly fail her.

Since the acquittal mass protests and riots have broken out across Pakistan calling for the “blood” of Asia and any of her sympathisers. Why given this abysmal situation and the fact that two people have already been killed in connection with this case is she still in political and legal limbo? There is only so much that the Pakistani Army and diplomats can do to hold back the tide of protestors and rioters who wish to see her pay for a crime that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has already unequivocally exonerated her of. Any attempt to review this ruling is ultra vires (that is, beyond the power) of the Pakistani incumbent government. She is innocent so she must be allowed to seek asylum.

Australia has essentially issued a statement in their refusal of political asylum to Asia. In an abhorrently administrative letter, Australia has essentially told Asia to “queue up,” citing her failure to be granted United Nations (UN) Refugee Status and the pressures on the offshore component of its resettlement programme. In light of the recent Melbourne terror attacks, I cannot help but wonder whether this a veiled attempt to pretend Australia’s refusal of asylum is connected to alleged pressures on its offshore program, when in reality it’s about submitting and cow-towing to extremists? What does this say about Australia (a modern, western nation, often lauded for its views on human rights) if it cannot take a strong and audacious stance against extremism and protect those threatened by it?

Australia has often been characterised as the “lucky” country because of its track record on human rights and yet as I have elucidated, it will not extend any help to a desperate Christian woman whose life is under imminent threat. She’s currently being kept in a secret and undisclosed location in Pakistan. It would only take one extremist finding out where she is for her security and welfare to be further jeopardised and her situation to be augmented into tumultuous disarray. This is a desperate plea and a desperate call for help! How long can we expect the Pakistani Army to hold back the rioters that have flooded the streets in a cacophony of belligerence and anger? This has ascended to situation critical. The time to act is now.

Australia, the UN and Western nations must take a bold and strong stand against religious extremism which threatens the very fibre of our treasured liberal democracies. The UN must protect innocent people like Asia who are being persecuted for their religious freedom. If the UN fails Asia, what sort of precedent and message does this set for other persecuted minorities seeking refuge? Why has the UK (headed by Prime Minister Theresa May) also come out and denied political asylum to Asia when efforts to protect Malala Yousafzi were so immediate? Is this the message that the West wants to send? Has the West now capitulated to the extremists?

The UN claims to protect, insulate, and stand for human rights and dignity. It also states that human life is inviolable, inalienable and should not be arbitrarily deprived. In light of the fact that Pakistan has been a member state since 1947, why is Asia not being afforded the relevant protections under it? Australia has been a member state since 1945, why is Australia not intervening to prevent further bloodshed in a case that has already seen innocent lives extinguished in the collateral?

In an opinion piece published in the Washington Examiner, New Jersey columnist, William Mahoney, has sternly criticised the UN’s failure to intervene in the Asia Bibi case since 2010. He juxtaposes the response surrounding France’s banning of the niqab wherein the UN ruled that France “had not demonstrated how the full veil presents a threat in itself for public security to justify its absolute ban” as compared the sickening “scary silence” surrounding the Asia Bibi case. Why won’t the UN be the voice for a voiceless woman that its obligated to protect? Why won’t the UN (and other western nations) take a bold stand against extremism and protect a vulnerable and desperate Christian woman and her family who need immediate help?

Mahoney implores the UN to do something stating:

“The UN maintains that one’s right to life is a human right to which everyone is entitled, without discrimination. So, why has the UN remained silent on Asia Bibi? She is a Pakistani woman whose right to life is being threatened by a severe and controversial religious law that violates her own freedom of opinion and expression as a Christian.”

He further laments the deafening silence of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who beseeched the US in 2017 to abolish the death penalty describing it as a “barbaric” practice. Where is Guterres now when a desperate Pakistani Christian woman faces a dismal and draconian fate? Where is he now when a woman sentenced to death and subsequently exonerated faces being thrown to the hordes of lions calling for her blood? Why is there a culture of silence from the UN around this most devastating abuse of human rights? Isn’t the UN’s very role to intervene in such drastic cases like this? 

BPCa Australia communications officer Lara Hall, said:

"I hate to think what will happen to Asia and her family if she is forced to “wait in line” while the UN and Western nations sit by idly and allow this woman to languish in a perilous fate.

"If they do not act now, then the blood will be on their hands! Now is the time for action!

"I am prostrating myself at the feet of the UN and other Western nations to please hear the cry for help of this desperate woman and answer it with asylum immediately.

"Do not allow her to languish in a state of peril a moment longer! The UN must immediately grant her UN refugee status and she, her family and her associates must be given political asylum expediently."

"Prime Minister Scott Morrison today came out virulently rejecting extremism in the Australian public media. Well, my question is, if PM Morrison wants to make such comments, is he willing to stand by his rhetoric and afford asylum to someone who desperately needs it and is at grave risk of extremist attack?

"If he is using this rhetoric as mere political fodder in the face of this desperate situation, it shows his true character that he will not stand by a desperate woman irrefutably in need of asylum. I stand by Asia Bibi, so my question is will Scott Morrison stand by her too?"

She added:

"As an Australian citizen, I am personally calling on the Australian government to take action in saving Asia’s life or they will have been complicit in her death.

"If you are not on Asia’s side, you are on the side of the oppressor and you will have been a co-conspirator in her demise.

"Act now and save a desperate woman! If you force her to “wait in line” you are surely throwing her to wolves.

"I ask you if we fail to protect this innocent, vulnerable woman (who I again repeat has been completely exonerated of all wrongdoing and is therein innocent) and instead cow-tow and submit to extremists, then what, as a world, have we become?

"To paraphrase a quote in Shakespeare’s Richard III, I fear that in the West we have descended into a “winter of our own discontent.” We must act now!"

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"Asia Bibi has suffered enough and every day she is in Pakistan the potential for her to be killed increases.  

"I have no faith in the Pakistani Security forces who failed in their protection of Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, despite expressed goodwill of the government.

"In the case of the latter two Asia Bibi is a more primary target than both the politicians who were killed calling for her freedom, which heightens fears that she will be killed by a rogue in her own detail as has happened previously.

"While she remains in Pakistan, Asia must be put under the protection of a joint independent military force made up from countries from west."

Please sign our petition calling asylum for Asia Bibi (click here)


Please sign our petition caling for termination of UK Foreign aid to Pakistan (click here)



British Pakistani Christian Associaton, continues to provide advocacy and humanitarian aid to Christians in Pakistan and people of Britian. We cannot do it without your help please donate by clicking (here)
 


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