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Resolution introduced in US Congress to grant asylum to Asia Bibi

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

PTI Washington, USA Feb 01, 2019, 09.56 AM (IST)

A US lawmaker has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives to grant asylum to Pakistani woman Asia Bibi, claiming she was "persecuted" in that country for being a Christian.

Asia Bibi has been persecuted, jailed and threatened for doing nothing more than being a Christian in Pakistan, Congressman Ken Calvert said.

The recent decision by Pakistan's top court to overturn Bibi's death sentence and free her from jail is obviously welcome news, the lawmaker said.

However, Asia continues to be in danger and is the subject of incendiary rhetoric by radical Islamist leaders. That's why it's essential for Congress and other defenders of religious freedom to stand up and protect her, Calvert said.

Recognising the importance of granting asylum to those with legitimate claims of persecution for their religion, race, nationality, membership in a social group, or political belief; the resolution supports granting asylum in the United States to Asia Bibi and her immediate family. 

Bibi, a mother of four, may leave Pakistan shortly as there are threats to her life. Her two daughter had already shifted to Canada.

Pakistan said on Thursday that Bibi, who was recently acquitted by the Supreme Court in a blasphemy case, was a free citizen and has the right to travel anywhere inside the country or abroad.

A three-member Supreme Court bench on Tuesday threw out a petition seeking to review the apex court's decision to acquit 47-year-old Bibi.

She was arrested in 2009 for allegedly using derogatory words during a quarrel with Muslim women while working on a farm in Nankana Sahib area of Punjab province. The case was filed by a local prayer leader on the complaint of the Muslim women.

Bibi was convicted in 2010 by the trial court and her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore High Court in 2014. The apex court overturned her conviction last year, sparking days of violent demonstrations led by hardline Islamist parties.

Her case has been deeply divisive in Pakistan where there is strong support for the controversial blasphemy laws.

Bibi's case gained prominence when the former governor of Pakistan's Punjab province Salman Taseer was killed in 2011 for supporting her and criticising the blasphemy laws.

A month after Taseer was killed, Pakistan's religious minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who spoke out against the blasphemy law, was shot dead in Islamabad.

The blasphemy laws were promulgated by former military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1980s. A person convicted under these laws is given a death sentence. 

Story highlights

Bibi was convicted in 2010 by the trial court and her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore High Court in 2014.