It is ironical that we are celebrating the exit of our very own citizen who may not have wished to leave the country of her birth. A day before yesterday, there were various sources, named and unnamed, local and foreigner, who confirmed that Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was acquitted by the Supreme Court in a blasphemy case last year, has left Pakistan.
To cloak the state’s shame in diplomatic language, it was said that she travelled of her own free will. No one in Pakistan disclosed her destination in the interest of her safety.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talking to a foreign news agency said Asia Bibi has been reunited with her family. The United States welcomed the news that Asia Bibi has safely reunited with her family. It was clear that besides the US many other western capitals were willing to offer support that Bibi and her family may need to lead their lives in safety. They were actively engaged with Pakistani government to ensure that no harm comes to her.
Bibi had to spend as many as nine years in jail before being finally acquitted of blasphemy charges by the apex court late last year. A lower court earlier had awarded her capital punishment.
Even after the Supreme Court decision, she could not be allowed to leave the country as the religio-political groups were up in arms against the decision. The whole country came to a standstill for about a week as religious fanatics created a law and order situation.
The decision, however, is a landmark in the judicial history of the country as there was immense pressure from the rightest forces that were emboldened by such events as had forced the government of the day to acquiesce to their unjust demands. The previous Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz government after a showdown with religious groups at Faizabad intersection was forced to sign a deal with them wherein one of its ministers not only resigned but publically apologized for the supposed mistake he made while drafting a law.
Although we learnt it the hard way, the same disruptive forces threatened to repeat the same performance over and over again until the state came into action and put the leadership of theirs under house arrest. They are screwed to the extent that now there is not a whimper against the move that sadly in the past claimed the life of a governor.
All the state institutions that played a role in this whole episode deserve appreciation. However, the work is not over until every citizen has the freedom of mobility and expression in this country. Would it be wrong if we wished that Asia Bibi one day may come back and live here peacefully?