OTTAWA / ROME: Canada urged Pakistan on Tuesday to ensure the well-being of Aasia Bibi – a Christian woman whose life is in danger after having been acquitted of blasphemy charges, a ruling that sparked mass country-wide protests.
The case of Aasia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan before being released, has outraged Christians worldwide. Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, has appealed for help to Britain, Canada, Italy and the United States, and so far, Italy has said it would assist her.
“It’s a very important issue, a central priority for our government,” Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said of Bibi’s case after meeting her European Union counterpart, Federica Mogherini, in Montreal.
Bibi, convicted in 2010, denies committing blasphemy.
“Canada calls on Pakistan to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family,” Freeland said. “Canada is prepared to do everything we can and is extremely engaged in this issue.”
The Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) shut down roads in major cities during three days of demonstrations against Bibi’s acquittal. They have threatened to escalate the protests if she is permitted to leave the country. The government has indicated it will bar her from traveling abroad.
Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook, fled to the Netherlands earlier this week because of fears for the safety of his family.
Meanwhile, Italy has said it will help Aasia Bibi leave the country.
“I want women and children whose lives are at risk to be able to have a secure future, in our country or in other Western countries, so I will do everything humanly possible to guarantee that [for Bibi],” Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said.
“It is not permissible that in 2018 someone can risk losing their life for a … hypothesis of blasphemy,” said Salvini, who is also interior minister and head of the League party.
Italy is working discreetly on the case with other Western countries, he told an Italian radio station.
Salvini said Italy had nothing against the Pakistani government. “The enemy is violence, extremism and fanaticism,” he said.