Woman still can’t leave Pakistan after acquittal
Faces death threats from religious extremists
ISLAMABAD | A Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan has been transferred from a secret location near the capital to another in Karachi, but is still unable to leave the country to join her daughters in Canada, a friend said Saturday.
Aman Ullah, who spoke to Aasia Bibi, 54, by telephone Friday, said Ms. Bibi is being held in a room in the southern port city. He said Ms. Bibi, who faces death threats by radical Islamists, is frustrated and frightened, uncertain of when she will be able to leave Pakistan.
“She has no indication of when she will leave … they are not telling her why she cannot leave,” said Mr. Ullah, who fled the country Friday after receiving threats from extremists angered by his assistance to Ms. Bibi, which began while she was on death row.
Mr. Ullah has been a liaison between Ms. Bibi and European diplomats, who have sought to assist her. The Associated Press spoke to Ms. Bibi by telephone with Mr. Ullah’s assistance following her October acquittal, which was upheld last month.
Ms. Bibi’s ordeal began in 2009 when two fellow farmworkers refused to drink from the same container as a Christian woman. There was a quarrel and the two Muslim women later accused Ms. Bibi of blasphemy. The Supreme Court judges said there were widespread inconsistencies in the testimony against Ms. Bibi, who has steadfastly maintained her innocence.
The acquittal should have given Ms. Bibi her freedom, but Mr. Ullah said diplomats were told that her departure from Pakistan, where she feels her life would be in danger, would come not in the short term, but “in the medium term.”
He said Ms. Bibi told him she is locked in one room of a house.
“The door opens at food time only,” said Mr. Ullah, adding that she is allowed to make phone calls in the morning and again at night. He said she usually calls her daughters.
Ms. Bibi’s husband is with her, he said. “She is living with her family and given requisite security for safety,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in an email.
Mr. Chaudhry said the government was responsible for taking “all possible measures” to protect her and her family, adding that “she is a free citizen after her release from jail and can move anywhere in Pakistan or abroad.”
Ms. Bibi told Mr. Ullah the security detail assigned to her refuses to explain why she is still confined.
Ms. Bibi’s case has brought international attention to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which carries an automatic death sentence for a conviction of insulting Islam. There have been widespread complaints that the law is used to settle scores and intimidate religious minorities, including Shiite Muslims.
The mere suggestion of blasphemy can incite mobs to kill. After Ms. Bibi’s October acquittal the radical Tehreek-eLabbaik party called its followers onto the streets, where they protested for three days demanding Ms. Bibi’s immediate execution as well as the death of the judges who acquitted her.
Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, was freed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court and was transferred to southern Karachi by Pakistan’s security agencies.