Asia Bibi's family still in hiding five years after blasphemy accusations

Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi is facing death for blasphemy(Photo: Voice of the Martyrs)

The husband of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, has given a rare interview in which he urged the international community to speak up for his wife.

Speaking to the BBC, Ashiq Massih said he and the couple's five children have been in hiding for almost five years, ever since Asia was first arrested.

"We get death threats. We can't stay in one place for very long," he said.

"We live in hiding. It's very hard especially for the children. They can't settle down or study. It's not a normal life to be constantly living in fear."

Found guilty of blasphemy in November 2010, Bibi has been on death row for over four years. She continues to deny accusations that she insulted the Prophet Muhammad – charges levelled at her by former colleagues.

Last October, Bibi's two young daughters spoke out about their own violent treatment at the hands of their mother's accusers.

Esham was just 9 years old when she was warned by friends that her mother was being attacked in the field where she worked as a berry picker.

"I rushed to the spot and found that she was being abused and tortured by men. They had even torn her clothes," Esham, now 14, told the MailOnline.

After running home and returning with a new dress for her mother, Esham said the men began torturing her, too. They used offensive slurs and dragged the two women into the village. "We were both crying but there was nobody to listen to us," she recalled.

The police arrived and told Esham to find her father, but he was too "terrified" to come, and by the time she returned, her mother had already been arrested and taken away.

Also speaking to the Mail, Massih, said he was ashamed of his actions that day, but added "I do not think it could have helped her or our family if I had tried to save her".

"I might also have ended up in jail as a blasphemy-accused and there would be no one to help my daughters," he said.

In his latest interview, Massih said the blasphemy law has "destroyed" his family's lives, and urged the Pakistani government to repeal it.

The laws have been blamed for much of the persecution against Christians in Pakistan and for increasing inter-religious tensions across the country.

They stipulate that "whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine".

Human rights groups say that the laws are frequently misused by extremists, and false charges are often brought against Christians in order to settle personal scores or to seize property or businesses.

In November 2014, a Christian couple near Lahore were been beaten and tortured by a mob for allegedly desecrating the Qur'an. Shama, 24, and her 26-year-old husband Shehzad were then burned to death in a brick kiln where they worked while the police stood by and watched.