Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy and was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, is likely to be flown out of the country as the landmark verdict sparked countrywide protests and death threats from hardline groups.
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 on 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.
Officials said Bibi might be flown out of Pakistan due to the threat to her life. However, it was not clear where she will go as several countries, including Canada, have offered asylum to her. The timing of her release was not been shared due to security reasons. She was kept in Sheikhupura jail near Lahore. Bibi’s case has been deeply divisive in Pakistan where there is strong support for the controversial blasphemy laws.
Asia Bibi’s lawyer on Thursday said that his client should leave Pakistan for her safety amid widespread protests by radical Islamist groups.
“She is not safe in Pakistan and she will have to leave the country,” Saif-ul-Malook told Efe news, adding that he might also have to leave the country to protect himself.
Despite having two bodyguards, Malook said he feared for his own life too. “I don’t regret defending Asia, but I am scared. I don’t think I am safe in Pakistan.”
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.
(With agency inputs)