Woman still can’t leave Pak­istan af­ter ac­quit­tal

Faces death threats from re­li­gious ex­trem­ists

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY KATHY GAN­NON

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Aa­sia Bibi, a Pak­istani Chris­tian woman, was freed by Pak­istan’s Supreme Court and was trans­ferred to south­ern Karachi by Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity agen­cies.

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