ISLAMABAD: Besides himself, Aasia Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih has also sought asylum for his long-standing guardian Joseph Nadeem, who is actually an English translator assisting him in interacting with media-persons and foreigners.
Sources revealed to The Express Tribune that as Ashiq received foreign aid to run his household during the imprisonment of his wife, Nadeem took advantage of his position and started earning a handsome sum of money.
Ashiq is requesting US, UK or Canada to grant asylum for his family and Nadeem.
Currently, Ashiq is living with his first wife and has five children, most of whom are married.
Interestingly, Aasia fell in love with Ashiq and married him, who was already married and had five children.
Aasia has two daughters, who are staying with their stepmother. One is mentally ill and the second can’t go to school as her mother is in jail.
It is learnt that after the issuance of the apex court judgements in such matters, it takes 10 to 15 days for the release of an individual.
Aasia’s lawyer Saiful Malook already boarded a plane for Europe due to immense security threats.
The request by Ashiq came a day after he criticised a government deal with hardline Islamists that left Aasia in legal limbo, and called on authorities to protect her.
Bibi, who had been on death row since 2010 on blasphemy charges, was acquitted by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, triggering large street protests which paralysed life across the country for three days.
The government reached a deal on Friday to end the protests by agreeing to a travel ban preventing Aasia from leaving the country, and saying it would not object to hardline movements appealing the verdict.
An appeal has now been filed with the court against Aasia’s release.
Ashiq criticised the government deal, saying it was “wrong”.
“I request President Donald Trump to help us to leave (the country), and I request the prime minister of the UK to do their level best to help us, to grant us freedom,” said Ashiq, in a video message, seen by AFP, also requesting help from the Canadian prime minister.
Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association told AFP that the family was resting its hopes on the US, Britain or Canada to grant them asylum and help them reach a place of safety.
“These nations have the largest Pakistani Christian communities,” Chowdhry said, adding Ashiq also wants asylum for some members of the extended family and those who have helped with his wife’s case, one of whom could speak English.
“If Aasia leaves the country, every family member, every person associated to her, will be killed,” he said.
Chowdhry said the family’s initial relief at Aasia’s acquittal has turned into anguish.
“The daughters are weeping. They still haven’t seen their mother. The family is totally shattered,” he said. “They absolutely don’t know when they will see their mother. Since (the court decision), with the violence and the protests, it is too dangerous for them to see their mother in jail.”
Ashiq on Saturday told German Deutsche Welle radio the court had been “very courageous” to acquit his wife, an illiterate mother in her 50s who was accused of blasphemy a decade ago.
“The current situation is very dangerous for us. We have no security and are hiding here and there, frequently changing our location,” he told the German radio station, saying he was worried his wife would be attacked in prison.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry insisted the government was not ignoring the actions of the Islamists.
“No one should have this wrong impression that the state will ignore this behaviour,” he told reporters on Sunday. “The state will not ignore the rebellion.”
Police in Islamabad on Sunday arrested 12 people for violence and incitement and were seeking another 32 who had been identified.
On Saturday, the government launched a crackdown against the protesters on the orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is in China, and booked over 5,000 of them. (With input from AFP)