King's Evangelical Divinity School

21 October 2014

Asia Bibi and Just Another Petition. But What If…?

This  week  saw an  update on the plight of  Pakistani Christian mom of five Asia Bibi,  sentenced to hang for blasphemy against Islam. Her original sentence was upheld at appeal and her case has run its course.  There appear to be no further judicial avenues to pursue and  she remains in prison,  awaiting execution. This situation has dragged on for four years. 

When I visited No 10's e-petition site yesterday I was surprised to find none on behalf of Asia Bibi, so I posted one. I was duly informed it would take up to a week for approval (which was discouraging) but by late afternoon I received  an email to say it had been published.  Since then I've been writing to friends and colleagues asking them to sign and share.

It's a slow, slow business. The petition has been up 24 hours and has nearly 300 signatures at the time of writing. At one level it's great to see so many people take the time in the middle of a busy day or week to sign yet another petition. But at another level it seems a tiny drop in the ocean. Indeed, this afternoon a social media contact pointed out to me other petitions (which I didn't know about) on behalf of Asia Bibi, with many more signatures, that nonetheless so far appear to have achieved little. I must admit to having felt somewhat deflated.

Yet this petition is a little different. Rather than a general call for Asia Bibi's release, it seeks to put pressure on the UK government and British politicians to intervene, in turn putting pressure on the government of Pakistan to act. Seeking the release of someone residing outside the jurisdiction of your  local politician is one thing. But petitioning for your government and politicians to intervene and make a difference, so that they are in no doubt this is absolutely a major issue for many British voters, is quite another. Especially when a general election is looming… and one that looks like being the closest in years. Make no mistake, every British politicians is acutely aware how every vote counts in 2015.

I do not suggest for one moment  that politicians are solely motivated by votes (!). But with so many causes vying for our politicians' attention, logically it's the most popular that attract political support. Britain has long and considerable historical, political and economic relations with Pakistan, and thus british politicians could make a real difference.