THE Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, has joined calls to stop the Government trying to deport a Christian Azeem Wazir back to Pakistan. He fled to the UK in 2015 to avoid being incarcerated on death row on charges of blasphemy.
Mr Wazir was living in Bristol, but is currently being detained in the Colnbrook detention centre in Heathrow. He was due to be deported to Pakistan on Friday, buta bail hearing was reportedly granted, delaying his departure after an appeal from his lawyers. He is a Roman Catholic, and a public supporter of Asia Bibi, who left Pakistan and arrived in Canada this week, four months after her acquittal from death row was upheld by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The diocese of Bristol said in a statement on Thursday: “On the day that Asia Bibi arrives to safety in Canada, one of her public supporters is in danger of imminent deportation to Pakistan from the UK. . . On 1 May, without warning, Azeem was taken from Bristol, where he has been living, and detained in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, where he now faces deportation on Friday.”
Bishop Faull said: “We know that the situation for Christians in many parts of the world is extremely difficult, and Pakistan is sadly no exception. It’s extremely concerning to see someone like Azeem being threatened with deportation at such short notice when his case clearly warrants fuller consideration.”
A Change.org petition calling the Home Secretary Sajid Javid to prevent the deportation has reached more than 7000 signatures. It states: “Azeem has been targeted by Islamic extremists in Pakistan and has left family and a prosperous lifestyle in 2015 in fear of his life. His wife, who is still in Pakistan, has continued to receive threats against Azim including unknown people firing weapons outside their home and stoning the building.
“If Azeem is deported this week, his family expect him to be incarcerated and charged with blasphemy which carries the death penalty. Azeem’s own fear is that Islamic extremist networks will arrange for his murder.”
Mr Wazir was reportedly accused of “dishonouring the religion of Islam, prophets, Quran and Muhammad”. A fatwah is reported to have been issued against him because he protested against the blasphemy law in Pakistan, and supported the campaign “Stop Killing Christians”.
The Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said: “It is inconceivable that, as Canada opens its doors to give Asia Bibi and her family safety, we are on the verge of sending one of her public supporters back to Pakistan where he faces clear and very serious danger.
“Azeem is a valued member of the Bristol community, and we are doing everything we can to try to make sure the Home Office reconsider this case.”