Asia Bibi has finally been released from Prison in Pakistan. However, her exact whereabouts remain unclear. Reports that Bibi had been smuggled out of the country appear to be untrue, though this would certainly be the best option to secure the Christian mother’s personal safety as hardline Islamic clerics continue to hunt her down.
Officials stated that the mother, who was acquitted of blasphemy last week, left a detention facility in the Punjab province on Wednesday and was flown to Islamabad. Officials reported that armed troops guarded the roads leading to the airport from which she departed. According to the Guardian, Bibi has been held at a secure location because of threats to her life.
A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign office announced on Thursday that reports of Bibi fleeing the country were false. “She is in Pakistan,” said Mohammad Faisal, the spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign office, according to the New York Times. Bibi’s husband and children are still residing in Pakistan at an undisclosed location, while her lawyer has already fled to The Netherlands.
Attorney Saiful Malook said that the government had guaranteed his client’s safety at this time. “The Pakistani army assured me that she remains safe, that nobody shall hurt her, and that she should be allowed to leave provided that she is safe,” he said.
“Help us get out of Pakistan,” Bib’s husband Ashiq Masih told Aid to the Church in Need in a statement. “We are extremely worried because our lives are in danger. We no longer have even anything to eat, because we cannot leave the house to buy food.”
Last week, the Pakistani government was widely criticized for striking a deal with radical Islamic clerics and agreeing to prevent Christian mother Asia Bibi from leaving the country. The action, taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan in response to increasingly explosive protests at the ruling, will entail the pursuit of legal proceedings to place Asia Bibi on the “exit control list” (ECL). Many of Bibi’s supporters have said that this action was equivalent to signing her “death warrant” due to the open threat of death made by who feel she should be punished for the alleged crime.
Bibi was initially arrested after supposedly entering into an argument with a group of women about a source of drinking water. The Muslim women accused Bibi of drinking from the same tap as them, to which Bibi allegedly responded, “Jesus Christ died for my sins. What did the prophet Muhammad do for you?” a remark which they believed offended their revered religious figure.
However, in the Supreme Court’s final judgment, it declared that the two sisters who accused Bibi “had no regard for the truth,” before adding that “the said semi-literate young sisters had a reason to level allegations against the appellant which could be untrue.”
Last week, in Pakistan’s second-largest city of Lahore, hundreds of protesters gathered together and chanted “Hang infidel Asia” and “Blasphemers Deserve Death.” Sickeningly, the hashtag #HangAsiaDefend295C was trending among the religious extremists on Twitter, with the 295c referring to “295-C” of Pakistan’s penal code which makes it a criminal offense to blaspheme against the Prophet Muhammad.
According to the Penal Code itself, 295-B refers to the prohibiting of “Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur’an,” and 295-C is in reference to the “use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet.” Other non-Islamic-specific violations contained in Pakistan’s criminal laws include “trespassing on burial places” and “disturbing religious assembly.”
Pray for Asia Bibi as her ordeal continues.