Asia Bibi denies ever having spoken ill of the Prophet Muhammad during a dispute over a drinking cup with her Muslim neighbours.
Yet whether she is guilty or not is entirely beside the point. Or at least, it should be.
Bibi, a Christian woman, was convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan in 2010. Incredibly, in this nuclear-armed nation in the 21st Century, that’s a capital offence. She then spent eight years on death row for words she denies uttering.
To muddy the waters, her alleged words could not be repeated by either the prosecution or defence in a Pakistani court for fear of committing the same capital offence.
Ridiculous? You bet.
Hard-line Islamists threaten the Netherlands
But following Bibi’s belated acquittal on 31 October, that’s not how Pakistan’s militant Tehreek-e-Labaik Islamists see it. This is despite the fact that her acquittal, absurdly, is now being reviewed by the court in light of sharia Islamic religious law.
On the far side of the world, the Netherlands finds itself embroiled in this Medieval religious madness. The progressive EU nation has been forced to recall staff from its embassy in Pakistan following threats from the extremists after it provided shelter to Bibi’s lawyer.
The Dutch embassy briefly closed earlier than usual on Monday, with ‘a large number of staff’ returning to the Netherlands, Dutch Foreign Minster Stef Blok told national NPO radio.
‘Unfortunately threats have been made against the Netherlands, Dutch diplomats,’ Blok said.
‘I discussed the issue with my Pakistani colleague.’
Meanwhile, hard-line Islamists in Pakistan blocked the streets, demanding for the killing of judges after overturning the conviction of Asia Bibi, a mother of five, who had been on death row for eight years.
According to RAW, the militant Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party took to the streets after the Supreme Court ruling, blocking main cities and highways for three days, making blasphemy their rallying cry.
Among those who fled after the decision of the Supreme Court on 31 October was Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Mulook. After receiving a number of death threats himself, he escaped soon after the verdict’s announcement, and was awarded temporary shelter by the Dutch government.
Dutch embassy has halted the issuing of visas
The Dutch government announced on Friday that its embassy in Pakistan had temporarily halted the issuing of visas ‘due to circumstances beyond our control’, despite being located in a tightly guarded diplomatic enclave.
Conversely, Pakistani media outlets reported that the embassy had been forced to close due to threats, but they have since been corrected by the Dutch Foreign Ministry.
The protests finally came to an end after the government of Prime Miniser Imran Khan struck a deal with the TLP.
The agreement reads that the state would not block a petition to review Bibi’s acquittal in light of sharia Islamic religious law and ensure that she wouldn’t leave the country until it was finally decided.
The Pakistani government officials have said that Bibi is in a secure location while the court reconsiders her case.
While it may be difficult for us free-speaking individuals to sit and watch from the other side of the fence, it could be said there simply isn’t much we can do.
But when it comes to such crimes against humanity, Australia, along with the rest of the world, should reconsider aid and trade with these nations. Any country with values that are incongruent to our own, like imposing death for non-crimes such as blasphemy, should not be supported with our hard-earned dollars.
It’s one, very effective, way that we can stand up for ourselves and for justice.
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