Pak­istan roiled by re­lease of ac­cused blas­phe­mer

Rotorua Daily Post - - World - Pak­istan

The re­lease from prison of a Chris­tian woman ac­quit­ted of blas­phemy against Is­lam, and un­con­firmed re­ports that she was then se­cretly air­lifted abroad, are roil­ing Pak­istani Mus­lims and in­ten­si­fy­ing fears in the coun­try’s mi­nor­ity Chris­tian com­mu­nity.

The govern­ment con­firmed the re­lease of Asia

Bibi, whose ac­quit­tal by the Pak­istani Supreme Court last week sparked vi­o­lent protests and death threats against au­thor­i­ties. But of­fi­cials de­nied Pak­istani me­dia re­ports that she was then se­cretly flown out of the coun­try.

Pak­istani news me­dia re­ported widely that Bibi, whose lawyer fled the coun­try ear­lier this week, was covertly freed from prison in the city of Mul­tan un­der a high court or­der, driven to a mil­i­tary air base near the cap­i­tal and flown to the Nether­lands, ac­com­pa­nied by her fam­ily and the Dutch am­bas­sador to Pak­istan.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials in­sisted she had not been freed. The govern­ment, in a fran­tic ef­fort to stop the spread­ing vi­o­lence last week, agreed in ne­go­ti­a­tions with protest lead­ers that it would not al­low her to leave the coun­try.

A For­eign Min­istry spokesman said Bibi has been re­leased from prison but re­mains “in a safe place in Pak­istan”. He cau­tioned the news me­dia to ver­ify all spec­u­la­tive re­ports of her leav­ing “to pre­vent need­less sen­sa­tion­al­ism and con­tro­versy”.

The Mus­lim re­li­gious group lead­ing the protests, which brought the coun­try to a near­stand­still for three days af­ter the Oc­to­ber 31 ver­dict, has de­manded her death and threat­ened to take to the streets again if the state abet­ted her es­cape. In a state­ment re­leased yes­ter­day, the group said Bibi’s re­ported re­lease and flight vi­o­lated the agree­ment, brought “pain and sor­row” to the na­tion and has “writ­ten a black chap­ter in his­tory”.

Asia Bibi

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