The Pakistani government has announced an agreement with the extremists responsible for protests across the country since Asia Bibi was cleared of blasphemy.
The government has promised not to oppose the petition for a legal review of Asia’s acquittal and that her name shall be added to the Exit Control List, which contains the names of people not allowed to travel outside the country.
The government also pledged to take action against the possible deaths of protesters and that all people arrested because of the protests will be immediately released. Meanwhile, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP, the party responsible for instigating the protests) said it would call its supporters to cease the demonstrations and apologise to those who experienced ‘inconvenience’ because of the protests.
The deal was announced on Friday evening and by Saturday morning, most protest sites had been cleared and mobile phone services had been restored.
'Protesters will come back if there is a mistake'
At a press conference, TLP leaders claimed that other points were agreed upon. According to one leader, Pir Afzal Qadri, the Supreme Court will form a full bench, without the three judges who ruled in Asia’s case, and review the decision which was rejected ‘by the whole nation’. “This is for the first time that the whole country came to a grinding halt following a Supreme Court decision,” he said.
He also warned, “We have also made it clear to the government party that all protesters will come back to their protesting positions, if there will be any mistake.”
Shockingly, Qadri told media that Asia has been placed under detention again and that a plane from the UK, which was about to take her to a Western country, has left without her.
'A deviation from democracy'
This agreement is a huge blow. Asia’s life is in mortal danger. Not only her life, but also that of her husband and children, and her legal team.
“When the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Asia Bibi, we were all freed,” says a local Christian. “Regardless of the dangers and the risk ahead, we have been freed. What you see today and will see in the days ahead is a carefully orchestrated movement to send a strong message to the world that Pakistan is set to turn into a state where Christians have a ‘dhimi position’. This is in contradiction to the ideals at the time of creation of Pakistan. This is also a deviation from democracy and the world should be concerned.”
Dhimi refers to the low status of non-Muslims in some Islamic societies which leaves them with few or no rights, and are obliged to pay taxes for ‘protection’.
We – Open Doors and Christians in Pakistan – pray that God will change the hearts of the Pakistani government and the judicial powers, and give them courage to stand up to militancy and to give Asia and Christians a fair chance at a future. We pray that Asia and her family will be able to leave Pakistan and that those involved in her case will be offered protection.
We also plead with other governments to engage peacefully but without compromise with Pakistan and to keep the country accountable to fair human rights standards.
We also request Christians worldwide continue to pray for Asia, her loved ones, and all of our brothers and sisters in Pakistan. Asia has put her faith in God. We must do the same.
STAND WITH YOUR PERSECUTED FAMILY IN PAKISTAN
Pakistan is currently number 5 on the Open Doors World Watch List. All Christians suffer from institutionalised discrimination, with occupations that are seen as low, dirty and derogatory being officially reserved for Christians, most of whom are from the poorer classes. Radical Islamic groups, courted by political parties, the army and government, run thousands of schools capable of stirring up enmity towards religious minorities.
In cooperation with local churches and other partnering ministries, Open Doors supports the church in Pakistan through training, literacy and vocational projects, emergency aid and trauma therapy.
Your prayers and gifts today can help our local church partners to bring strength, encouragement and practical support to Christians in Pakistan, as well as showing them that they are not alone.