18-Year-Old Daughter of Asia Bibi, Christian Woman Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy, Says She is ‘Confident in God’ and Speaks of Her ‘Emotional Meeting’ With Her Mother as She Awaits Ruling on Final Appeal

Mother and daughter: Eisham Ashiq, 18, is the daughter of Asia Bibi, left, who is facing the death penalty after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammed in Pakistan

Eisham Ashiq was just nine years old when she witnessed her mother Asia Bibi being beaten bloodied by an angry mob, accusing the 44-year-old Christian mother-of-five of insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Ms Bibi, now 53, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010, a crime which carries a death sentence in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and she has been in solitary confinement on death row ever since.

This week, the Supreme Court reached a decision on Ms Bibi’s final appeal, and the family are now waiting anxiously for the announcement of their ruling, which will seal her fate.

If the court upholds the conviction, the 53-year-old will become the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy.

Happier times: Eisham, left, and her sister Esha, right, who has learning difficulties, are pictured with their mother Asia Bibi before she was accused of blasphemy

Ms Ashiq, 18, and her father Ashiq Masih are currently in the UK, courtesy of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Speaking to MailOnline via an interpreter, Ms Ashiq, said: ‘For nine years, I have been missing my mother very, very much.

‘I was very close to her, and there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t been praying for her to come home.’

She was a young child when her mother was first accused by fellow villagers in Sheikhupura, Punjab, of insulting Islam in 2009.

They were the only Catholic family in the village, but although their religion had seen her parents sometime struggle to find work, Ms Ashiq had a happy childhood in a loving home.

Hope: Ms Ashiq her father Ashiq Masih, pictured in Scotland this week, had an emotional meeting with Ms Bibi just days before the Supreme Court ruled on her appeal

It was a hot day in June 2009, when her mother went to fetch water for her fellow farmhands while working in a field picking berries.

The Muslim women she was labouring with objected, saying that as a non-Muslim Ms Bibi was unfit to drink from the same water bowl as them.

Ms Bibi would later say that the women insulted her religion, to which she responded: ‘I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?’

This prompted the Muslim women to go to a local imam and accuse Ms Bibi of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed.

Before Ms Bibi could be arrested on any official charges, a violent mob descended on their family home, and beat Ms Bibi up in front of her children.

The abuse was so violent, police were called to the scene, but after rescuing the mother-of-five, they arrested her and threw her in jail – and a year later she was convicted of blasphemy.

Over the past nine years, Ms Ashiq, her father and her siblings – sisters Naseem, 29, Sidra, 26, Esha, 17, and brother Imran, 27 – have been taking turns in visiting Ms Bibi on death row.

Missing their mother: Ms Ashiq, who now dreams of becoming a lawyer to help other poor people accused of blasphemy, is pictured far right with her sisters Esha, left, and Sidra, centre, in 2010, shortly after their mother was sentenced to death

It takes them six hours to travel from their home in Punjab to the prison where Ms Bibi is being held, in the same solitary confinement cell since her 2009 arrest.

They are allowed to see her for around 15 to 20 minutes under the watch of prison officers, before making the six-hour trip home.

Ms Ashiq and Mr Masih say they are only able to make the long and expensive journey every few months, with two or three of them going each time.

Jailed: Ms Bibi, now 53, was accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed by Muslim villagers and sentenced to death

The family last saw Ms Bibi last Monday, a meeting which may well have been their last.

Ms Ashiq said: ‘It was a very emotional meeting, but I am confident in God and that He will set her free.’

Ms Ashiq said she had to ‘find inner strength’ to overcome her mother being in prison while growing up.

She currently attends a local school along with her sister Esha, who has a developmental disorder and is a special needs student.

She dreams of becoming a lawyer, hoping to help poor people and those who, like her mother, have been accused of blasphemy.

Mr Masih, a builder by trade, tells MailOnline: ‘Asia is always saying “I am missing my children” and she is praying and praying to be free.

‘We always trust in God to care for her during her suffering days. Physically and mentally she is as well as she can be.

‘She has been in solitary confinement since day one as they fear someone might attack her.

‘We believe they will set her free, but the circumstances are such that she would be unable to live in Pakistan as a free woman. She would not survive.’

Ms Bibi’s case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, where two politicians who sought to help her were assassinated, including Punjab governor Salman Taseer, who was shot by his own bodyguard.

Fundamentalist groups have been protesting in the streets, calling for her execution to be carried out.

One of the most vocal groups, the ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), has warned of ‘terrible consequences’ if she is granted leniency.

The Supreme Court reached a decision on Monday, but their announcement is not expected until later this week or perhaps next, potentially due to a fear of mob violence.

Long journeys: The family have been making 12-hour roundtrips for 15-20 minute visits to Ms Bibi in the prison where she has been kept in solitary confinement since her arrest in 2009

If the three-judge Supreme Court bench uphold the 53-year-old’s conviction, her only recourse will be a direct appeal to the president for clemency.

Ms Bibi has always denied blaspheming and her representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbours and that her accusers had contradicted themselves.

Blasphemy is a charge so sensitive in Pakistan that anyone even accused of insulting Islam risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes.

The charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of death under legislation that rights groups say is routinely abused by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores.

The law does not define what blasphemy constitutes, and evidence is often not reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence.

Despite this, calls for reform of the blasphemy law have regularly been met with violence and rejected.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan launched a wholehearted defence of the laws during his election campaign earlier this year, vowing his party ‘fully’ supports the legislation and ‘will defend it’.

SOURCE: Daily Mail, Sara Malm