Defense lawyer in blasphemy case flees Pakistan
Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor has caused lynchings. Islamists have made the blasphemy law a central rallying cry.
Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was shot and killed by one of his guards in 2011 for defending Bibi and criticizing the misuse of the law. The assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged for the crime, but later was hailed by religious hard-liners as a martyr, with millions visiting a shrine set up for him near Islamabad. Malook had served as the prosecutor in Qadri’s trial.
Bibi was arrested in 2009 on allegations that she insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad during an altercation with other farmworkers. Her family and lawyers deny she ever insulted Islam.
Rights groups have called for Bibi’s release and criticized the blasphemy law, saying it has been used to settle scores or abuse religious minorities. The court upheld the blasphemy law, but said there was not enough evidence to convict Bibi.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has not been known to reverse its decisions, but court reviews typically take years.
Bibi’s family had expected her release by Thursday night. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, returned from Britain with their children in midOctober and was waiting for her release so that they could fly out of Pakistan.