Rehman Chishti said he was ‘very disappointed by the lack of leadership shown by the Government’ to do the ‘morally right thing’ citing his disgust over the Government’s failure to offer safe haven to Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi
A Conservative Party vice-chairman resigned yesterday citing his disgust over the Government’s failure to offer safe haven to Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi.
Rehman Chishti said he was ‘very disappointed by the lack of leadership shown by the Government’ to do the ‘morally right thing’.
It came as Britain’s reluctance to offer asylum to Mrs Bibi was branded ‘an act of shameful cowardice’ by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.
Mrs Bibi’s life hangs in the balance as no country has offered her refuge despite a lynch mob trying to hunt her down in Pakistan.
She had been convicted of insulting the prophet Mohammed under the country’s archaic blasphemy laws. Despite winning her freedom from death row on appeal last month she is now top of a hit list for Islamic extremists. Yet Britain has so far refused her sanctuary, fearing reprisals against UK diplomats.
In his resignation letter, Mr Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham in Kent, expressed dissatisfaction over Theresa May’s Brexit deal but said the Bibi case had a major bearing on his decision.
He said: ‘What I found shocking is that the Government is failing to put into practice the core values that our country stands for.
Mrs Bibi’s life hangs in the balance as no country has offered her refuge despite a lynch mob trying to hunt her down in Pakistan
In his resignation letter, Mr Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham in Kent, expressed dissatisfaction over Theresa May’s Brexit deal but said the Bibi case had a major bearing on his decision
‘The Government should not wait to see if another country offers sanctuary, we should have had the conviction to lead on this matter and offer sanctuary ourselves straight away.’
Miss Thornberry said it sent a dangerous message that Britain could be bullied. ‘Asia, her family, her lawyers and even the judges who freed her are all at threat from riotous lynch mobs,’ she said. ‘The idea that we would leave a defenceless mother to the mercy of the mob for fear they will turn on us as well is an act of shameful cowardice for a great and proud country like ours.
‘Worse still, it sends an extraordinarily dangerous message to others who might prefer we did not interfere in their human rights abuses – summon the mob and Britain will back off.’
Talks with Canada and France could yet lead to Mrs Bibi and her husband and children being offered sanctuary, but with every day that passes tensions are rising, fuelled by hate clerics in Pakistan. Earlier this week, Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary, demanded that she be given refuge in Britain.
Yesterday there were calls to cancel British foreign aid to Pakistan – the UK gives £380,000 daily – until the situation is resolved.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, who has worked on Mrs Bibi’s case since it began, said: ‘Britain needs to do two things. First, give her sanctuary here. And second, until they uphold the rule of law and protect the country’s minorities, we should redirect the £380,000 we give every day to Pakistan – £2.8billion over the past two decades – to more worthy recipients.
‘Our failure to speak or act has been craven and shameful.
‘Asia Bibi is in mortal danger. Pakistan’s highest court has exonerated her and said that she has been wrongly imprisoned for nine years under the sentence of death.
‘But now her life hangs by a thread as lynch mobs demand her execution and that of the judges who courageously vindicated her.
‘This is no idle threat. They murdered minister Shahbaz Bhatti and the Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, who had insisted on her innocence.’
And Labour MP Mike Kane, one of 19 politicians who signed a letter calling for Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to allow Mrs Bibi asylum, said: ‘It is astonishing that the Government cannot guarantee the safety of persecuted Christians fleeing persecution. It sends a terrible signal about Britain’s place in the world.’