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December 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Asia Bibi will still be in protective custody in Pakistan over Christmas, her British spokesman has said.

Asia Bibi, 53, is the Catholic Pakistani woman who was acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s supreme court on October 31. Following her acquittal, there was mass unrest in Muslim-majority Pakistan, led by an Islamist political party. Dashing hopes that the woman and her family would soon find refuge abroad, the Pakistani government signed an agreement with the extremists, preventing Asia Bibi from leaving the country. The extremists hope to overturn Bibi’s acquittal and ensure her execution. Meanwhile, she, her husband, and her family are in hiding, protected from would-be lynchers by the government.  

A petition to the Pakistani government to overturn the agreement will be heard in early or mid-January, Bibi’s British spokesman told LifeSiteNews.

“She’ll be spending Christmas in a closed room with her husband,” said Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association. He declined to comment on whether or not Bibi’s children would be with her.

Chowdhry, who is currently in Canada, had not heard that there has been recent criticism of the Vatican Secretary of State for stating that Asia Bibi’s case was “a Pakistani internal matter (“é una questione interna al Pakistan”).”

Il Messaggero wrote that Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s November 6 response to a question regarding Asia Bibi was that the Holy See has always been interested in saving her life, and he thought that a good thing. (“Da parte della Santa Sede c’è sempre stato interesse per salvare la vita ad Asia Bibi. Penso che sia una cosa buona.”)

“The question is not simple,” Parolin continued, according to Il Messaggero’s account. “From the juridical point of view, it's a Pakistani internal matter, but we hope it can be resolved in the best way.” (“La questione non è semplice. Da un punto di vista giuridico è una questione interna al Pakistan ma speriamo che tutto possa risolversi nel migliore dei modi”.)   

Quoting a slightly different version of the Cardinal’s answer, originally printed in Il Giornale, Italian journalist Antonio Socci believes Parolin’s words indicate a “cynicism” on the part of the Vatican regarding Asia Bibi’s safety, but Chowdhry disagrees.

“[Parolin’s remark] doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “All the religious denominations recognize the need for the proper legal processes.”

Finding no fault with Parolin or the Vatican, Chowdhry told LifeSiteNews that the “current delay” in Asia Bibi finding a safe refuge is because of Pakistan. He mentioned that the pope has spoken out against Asia Bibi’s imprisonment several times. He noted also that the Catholic community is very supportive of Asia Bibi, and that one of her greatest champions in the United Kingdom, Lord Alton of Liverpool, is a Roman Catholic.

Chowdhry acknowledged that the Vatican had not offered the persecuted Christian asylum, but said that the Italian government had done so.

Asia Bibi’s troubles began in 2009 when she had an altercation with some women when they were all employed berry-picking in the fields near the small village of Itan Wali. When Bibi drank water from a container, the Muslim workers complained that she, being a Christian, had contaminated the vessel. They claimed that she responded by insulting the Islamic prophet Mohammed.

When a mob subsequently invaded Bibi’s family home, the Christian was arrested by police on suspicion of blasphemy. A local judge sentenced her to death. The sentence was upheld by Lahore High Court, and Bibi spent nine years in solitary confinement for her own protection. She has steadfastly denied the allegation.