Woman at cen­ter of Pak­istani blas­phemy row leaves jail

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

A Pak­istani Chris­tian woman who spent eight years on death row for blas­phemy has been freed from jail after an ac­quit­tal that trig­gered Is­lamist protests, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

Asia Bibi’s con­vic­tion was over­turned by the coun­try’s high­est court on Oc­to­ber 31, but she re­mained in prison as the govern­ment ne­go­ti­ated with hard­lin­ers who block­aded ma­jor cities and de­manded her im­me­di­ate ex­e­cu­tion.

Is­lamist par­ties had al­ready vowed to take to the streets of Karachi later Thurs­day to protest at her ac­quit­tal and num­bers were now ex­pected to swell sharply fol­low­ing news of her re­lease.

“She has been freed,” lawyer Sai­ful-Mu­look said in a text mes­sage to AFP. “I have been told that she is on a plane but no­body knows where she will land.”

Fol­low­ing protests at last week’s rul­ing, the govern­ment agreed in a deal with Is­lamists to im­pose a travel ban on Bibi, and not to chal­lenge a re­view of the Supreme Court’s rul­ing.

One of the most vo­cal groups in the protests – the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pak­istan (TLP) – called for “mutiny” against the army’s top brass and the as­sas­si­na­tion of the top court’s justices.

Fol­low­ing Bibi’s re­lease, the TLP vowed to re­turn to the streets if she was al­lowed to leave the coun­try.

“If the prom­ise is bro­ken and she is sent abroad, then Al­lah will­ing, a move­ment will start and it will be de­ci­sive,” said TLP leader Afzal Qadri, after an ear­lier mes­sage from the group ac­cused the govern­ment of reneg­ing on the agree­ment.

For­eign min­istry spokesman Muham­mad Faisal on Thurs­day de­nied me­dia re­ports that Bibi had left the coun­try, telling AFP, “she is in Pak­istan.”

In­tel­li­gence sources also told AFP that she had not left the coun­try.

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