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Woman acquitted in blasphemy case likely out of Pak. amid death threats

By PTI Updated: Nov 02, 2018 12:31 am
A supporter of a radical Islamic group stands guard as protesters block a main highway to condemn a Supreme Court decision that acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, who spent eight years on death row accused of blasphemy, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Thursday on Nov. 1, 2018. (AP/PTI)

Lahore, Nov. 1 (PTI): A Christian woman, who was convicted of blasphemy and acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, was released from a jail in Multan City on Thursday morning and is likely to have flown out of the country as the landmark verdict sparked countrywide protests and death threats from hardline groups.

Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

The apex court’s judgement, which was pronounced Wednesday, triggered protests across Pakistan with protestors led by Islamic political party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups blocking major highways and roads in different parts of the country.

An official of the New Central Jail Multan for Women told PTI that Bibi was released from the jail, about 350 kms from Lahore, in early hours of Thursday after meeting all legal requirements.

“Aasia Bibi was released after we received her release order from the trial court,” the official said.

When asked who came to receive her, he said: “Some of her family members and lawyers had come at the jail to receive her.”

It has not been confirmed yet whether she moved to an undisclosed location in Pakistan or flew out of the country. “I cannot confirm whether she left the country or not,” an official of the Punjab government said.

To a question as when Bibi who was languishing in the Sheikhupra Jail (some 50kms from Lahore) was “secretly” shifted to the women jail in Multan, the official said: “Aasia Bibi was shifted to the Multan jail quite sometimes ago because of her security.”

A source in the government said Bibi might have flown out to a European country by now.

Her all family members including husband and five children have shifted to the UK. The News had reported that Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih had reached Pakistan along with his family from the UK to shift her abroad.

However, it was not clear where she will go as several countries, including Canada, have offered asylum to her.

Meanwhile, the Imran Khan’s government in a statement said: “The federal government has no plans to place the name of Aasia Bibi on the exit control list (to stop her from flying out of the country) or to file an appeal for a review against the apex court’s verdict .

Bibi’s case has been deeply divisive in Pakistan where there is strong support for the controversial blasphemy laws.

The blasphemy laws were promulgated by former military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1980s. A person convicted under these laws is given death sentence.

Bibi was the first woman who was given death sentence under the blasphemy laws.

By PTI Updated: Nov 02, 2018 12:31:49 am