Esham and her sister Esha’s mother, Asia Bibi, has been on death row for six years for blaspheming against the Prophet (SAW).
Their fight has reached all the way to the Vatican, where Esham found herself face to face with Pope Francis in April last year as the head of Catholic church offered prayers for her mother.
“He gave me blessings and I can’t remember more,” the 18-year-old told news agency.
“I feel the Pope is praying for my mother and he will keep praying, and with his prayers my mother will be freed.” Esham and Esha travel twice a month to the south Punjab city of Multan, where their mother is held.
The family has new hope of a reprieve — Supreme Court has said it will hear an appeal for Bibi later this month.
“We talk to our mama about the things at home,” Esham says. “I share my thoughts with her, like mother-daughter stuff.” The visits begin joyfully, she says, but end each time with a new wrenching moment of grief. “She becomes sad… her daughters come to meet her from such a long distance and she cannot even hug them.”
In 2010, Pope Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI called for Bibi’s release, and her husband has written to Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain seeking permission to move her to France. But the years of separation from her daughters have ground on, her appeals rejected by successive courts until last year, when the Supreme Court agreed to consider her case. Esham and Esha continue to hope. Esham clears her throat and speaks quietly. “My mom will be released,” she says. “I ask you to pray for her.”
Esham and 17-year-old Esha, who is mentally and physically disabled, live with their father for now but for some time stayed with a caretaker, buried in Lahore’s maze of streets away from their family due to safety fears.