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14 November 2018

Leader: Why Britain should offer Asia Bibi asylum

Although acquitted of blasphemy, Bibi’s life remains in permanent danger as long as she remains in Pakistan.

By New Statesman

On 31 October, a 54-year-old Christian woman called Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s supreme court after eight years on death row. It was the correct verdict – even once we acknowledge that blasphemy laws against any religion have no place in a modern society, there was no real evidence. But it has led to civil unrest and threats against Ms Bibi, her lawyer (who has fled the country) and the three judges who delivered the verdict.

Pakistan’s prime minister, the former cricketer Imran Khan, welcomed the court’s decision to uphold the law, but when it became clear how much this had angered hardline Islamic groups, he acquiesced in preventing Ms Bibi from leaving the country. However, her life will never be safe while she remains in Pakistan. Britain has cavilled over offering her asylum, which is a shameful abdication of moral leadership. It should think again.

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This article appears in the 14 Nov 2018 issue of the New Statesman, How the Brexiteers broke history