The Pakistani foreign office has released a statement indicating that acquitted Christian mother Asia Bibi is now free to leave the country, despite prior reports that the government was attempting to prohibit her from seeking asylum abroad in a bid to appease Islamist radicals. Hardline political groups such as the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) have been protesting the decision to free the 44 year old after she was cleared of bogus blasphemy charges.
Mohammad Faisal, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman, also dispelled rumors that Bibi had been secretly smuggled out of the country to safety. “Asia Bibi is in Pakistan,” Faisal stated, adding the woman was “now a free citizen and can go wherever she wishes,” according to CNN.
“Her writ is being heard. When a decision is made, she will go wherever she wants to go. It is a free country; she is a free national,” he said. “She can go wherever she wants to go. No one can object to that. If a free national of Pakistan wants to go somewhere, he/she has to get a visa and go. Nothing odd about that.”
Following Asia Bibi's release from prison a number of nationwide protests have been scheduled across #Pakistan. Please #pray that God would move powerfully to prevent any retaliation or further violence. #AsiaBibi pic.twitter.com/o07KF9iNHY
— CSW_UK (@CSW_UK) November 9, 2018
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry slammed the media for reporting Bibi had been evacuated out of the country, particularly as her case has drawn such an explosive response in the Muslim-majority nation.
“It has become a norm to publish fake news for sake of headlines,” Chaudhry said. “The Asia Bibi case is a sensitive issue and it was extremely irresponsible to publish news of her leaving the country without confirmation. I strongly urge the media to act responsibly.”
Yesterday, the news broke that Bibi had been released from her Punjab prison and transported to an undisclosed and heavily-guarded location in Islamabad.
TLP stated the decision to release Bibi was a break from its agreement with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration.
“The rulers have showed their dishonesty,” TLP spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi told Reuters.
It appears outside pressure, particularly from Western nations, along with logistical assistance from the U.N., had placed impetus on the Pakistani government to release the innocent mother.
The deal, struck in an attempt to appease those behind an increasingly chaotic series of protests held in opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision, also included an agreement that the government would not intervene in any appeals against Bibi’s acquittal.
The European parliament has also offered to help the embattled Bibi.
“Asia Bibi has left the prison and has been transferred to a safe place! I thank the Pakistani authorities,” tweeted Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament. “I look forward meeting her and her family, in the European Parliament as soon as possible.”
I have invited Asia Bibi’s husband and family to the European Parliament. I call on the Pakistani authorities to issue the necessary travel documents. European rules provide protection for those who are threatened because of their faith. pic.twitter.com/uSNVz5erXG
— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) November 6, 2018
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?”
That remark is believed to have offended their revered religious figure.
This is a school assembly where children demand execution of #AsiaBibi. These children will grow up believing that Asia was acquitted by SC under foreign pressure & not as per law. Re enforces the Point we've been raising that the TLP narrative is corrupting our children #BanTLP pic.twitter.com/6MuAI1SZC2
— M. Jibran Nasir (@MJibranNasir) November 7, 2018
However, in the Supreme Court’s final judgment, the justices declared the two sisters who accused Bibi “had no regard for the truth,” adding the “semi-literate young sisters had a reason to level allegations against the appellant which could be untrue.”
Just a reminder: definitely DON'T stop your prayers ??? for #AsiaBibi , things are far from in calm waters.
— Eduard Habsburg (@EduardHabsburg) November 8, 2018
Bibi’s lawyer, Saif Mulook, has already fled his home country, noting it was “not possible” to continue living in Pakistan following the landmark ruling. “I need to stay alive as I still have to fight the legal battle for Asia Bibi,” he said, according to the BBC. He is currently taking refuge in the Netherlands.
Continue to pray for Bibi as many campaign for her safe passage out of Pakistan.