Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has told reporters that embattled Christian mother Asia Bibi will finally be allowed to leave Pakistan.
Bibi, who was convicted of blasphemy and spent a decade on death row, was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court last October but has since been held at an undisclosed location in the port city of Karachi.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Prime Minister Khan said that “she will leave Pakistan in a couple of weeks,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, has been holed up with Bibi since her acquittal. Her children, however, are currently residing in Canada, where the entire family has been granted asylum.
“The case of Asia Bibi is a priority for our government, and we are focused on ensuring the safety of her and her family,” a spokesperson for Canada’s Global Affairs Department, told Faithwire.
The multi-disciplinary government department, which incorporates the Department of Foreign Affairs, said it was “working with like-minded friends and allies on this issue.”
“Canada is prepared to do everything we can to ensure the safety of Asia Bibi. We urge the Government of Pakistan to take all necessary steps to keep her safe,” the spokesperson added.
“Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, and must be fully respected.”
Why has the release been so delayed?
Reports indicate that Bibi was initially held at an undisclosed location for her own safety, as radical Islamists sought to take justice into their own hands and hand down the execution that Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled against.
However, it soon became apparent that the Pakistani government was seeking assurances from Bibi that she would not speak ill of her country in the media upon being released.
Now, having likely secured these assurances, Bibi will be allowed to reunite with her family in Canada.
“There is a little bit of a complication. And I can’t speak on the media about [it],” Khan said, according to the BBC. “But I can assure you she is safe and she will be leaving in weeks.”
What is the background?
Bibi was initially arrested back in 2009 after supposedly entering into an argument with a group of women about a source of drinking water. The Islamist 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.
The landmark judgment also noted that the prosecution’s presented evidence “was nothing short of concoction incarnate.” According to the highest court in Pakistan, the entire case against Bibi was built on lies.