The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the adjournment of Asia Bibi’s appeal, what representations, if any, they have made on her behalf to the government of Pakistan regarding reports that (1) there is a lack of information about when her appeal will be heard, and (2) that she is still being kept in solitary confinement.
On 4th July 2017 the House of Commons debated a motion from Jim Shannon MP (DUP), ‘That this House has considered persecution of Christians and the role of UK embassies.’ The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, spoke in the debate:
Dame Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): Thank you, Mr Hanson, for calling me because I omitted to put in to speak last night, for which I apologise. It was an oversight, but one that I should not have committed.
An interesting cross-section of Members of Parliament is in attendance to support my hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) who, as chair of the all-party group on international freedom of religion or belief, had the foresight to call for this debate. We welcome to the Chamber new Members who are showing their concern for the persecuted, and returning Members who we know through their faith will take a stand for the persecuted. As my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) so eloquently put it, we are all here to show our solidarity, and that is the important point. Some Members may not even speak, but we are numerous and we wish the persecuted out there to know that.
On the 3rd July 2017, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth received an answer to a written question about the death sentence for blasphemy in Pakistan.
Lord Bishop of Coventry: Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan regarding the death sentence handed down by Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Court on 10 June to Taimoor Raza, a Shi’a Muslim, for allegedly committing blasphemy on Facebook.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan about the imminent appeal hearing for Asia Bibi at the Pakistani Supreme Court on the charge of blasphemy. [HL2175]
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the current level of violence against Hindus in Pakistan.
On 21st March 2016 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer to a question on the case of Asia Bibi.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office remains concerned about the case of Ms Bibi and continues to follow her appeal process closely. The Supreme Court suspended the death sentence to allow for appeal in July 2015, but she does not yet have a hearing date.
Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, a written question about the discussions the Government had undertaken with Pakistan’s government about the blasphemy laws and human rights commitments.
Read the full transcript here:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Pakistan concerning the relationship between blasphemy laws there and that country’s human rights commitments, particularly in the light of the Lahore High Court’s decision to uphold the death penalty passed against Asia Bibi.[HL2276]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): We regularly raise at the highest levels Pakistan’s human rights commitments including the misuse of blasphemy laws both against Muslims and against religious minorities. We are concerned to hear about the case of Asia Bibi and reports that a court has upheld the imposition of the death penalty. We have consistently pressed the Government of Pakistan on the issue of the death penalty and expressed our principled opposition to it in all cases and we will ensure that we continue to do so.