Hague, Nov 6: The lawyer who helped free a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy said that he had been forced to flee to the Netherlands for his life, and has no idea where his client is.
Saiful Mulook, who defended Asia Bibi in the Pakistani courts, said on November 5 that the United Nations made him leave the country "against my wishes" because his life was at risk. Mulook told a news conference in The Hague that he contacted a UN official in Islamabad after Islamist violence erupted following the Supreme Court's ruling. "And then they and the European nations' ambassadors in Islamabad, they kept me for three days and then put me on a plane against my wishes," Mulook said.
The lawyer earlier said he had left Pakistan "to save my life from an angry mob" and because of fears for the safety of his family. Radio free Europe reported that Mulook did not know whether Bibi had already been released from prison, or where she would want to seek asylum after being acquitted by the Supreme Court on October 31.
"Ask the people of the UN", Mulook said. "They are not telling me, for security reasons." Bibi's whereabouts are unknown.
Islamists have warned they will resume protests and threatened "war" if the Pakistani authorities allow Bibi out of the country. In a deal with TLP that ended the protests but came under criticism from western countries and human rights groups, the government on November 3 indicated it will bar her from traveling abroad pending a "review" of the Supreme Court decision to acquit her.
Earlier on November 5, Pakistan's government said Twitter had suspended the account of a radical cleric for posting inflammatory statements against the Supreme Court, prime minister, and military. The Pakistani Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said it requested that Twitter suspend the account of cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi after his hard-line Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party blocked roads for three days last week and threatened the judges who acquitted Bibi.
This case has highlighted two issues with the draconian blasphemy laws in Pakistan, one is how allegations can be used to settle personal scores and secondly lower-court judges are unable to acquit innocent defendants for fear of their own lives.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor of committing the crime has led to lynchings in the past.
Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. (UNI)