Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan after blasphemy acquittal

Larry Hoffman
May 10, 2019

Asia Bibi, the Christian woman at the centre of a decade-long blasphemy row in Pakistan has left the country months after her death sentence was overturned amid mass protests by Islamist hardliners, reports said.

According to a source quoted in The Daily Mail in March, Bibi was "very unwell" and being denied medical care while holed up in a safe house with "low blood pressure".

Asia Bibi, pictured in 2010, traveled safely from Pakistan to Canada on Tuesday, according to her lawyer. "She has gone to Canada, she will live there now as she has been granted asylum by them", he said. "Justice has been dispensed", he said.

Despite the protests, this January, the Supreme Court upheld Bibi's acquittal, dismissing a petition filed by Islamists who have called for her execution. Now she finally travels to Canada to be reunited with her children.

"While we are grateful that Asia Bibi will be able to start anew in Canada, she lost almost a decade of her life in prison after being falsely accused of blasphemy", he said.

The temporary shutting of the visa service came days after it was reported that the life of Netherlands ambassador Ardi Stoios-Braken was at risk amid the worsening law and order situation in the country, especially due to the agitation movement launched by the Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan after the Supreme Court acquitted Aasia Bibi.

Blasphemy against Islam and Prophet Muhammad is a criminal offense that can carry the death penalty in Pakistan. She always maintained her innocence.

Meanwhile, Bibi was kept in a secret location while arrangements were made for her safe departure from the country where she was held prisoner on death row for eight years.

PM Khan capitulated to the demands of the extremists after they organized riots across the country that brought the country to a standstill.

Following her acquittal and the death threats, Bibi's supporters asked the United States to grant her asylum after she apparently was rejected by Britain.

And Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said: "Thank you to so many people who have prayed and campaigned for Asia Bibi's release".

A labourer from central Punjab province and minority Christian, Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sent to death row, but acquitted on appeal a year ago.

Nine years ago, the Christian mother of five was sentenced to hang because she offered a Muslim coworker a cup of water.

Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament president, said the journey meant "Asia Bibi's nightmare is over". "Aasia Bibi has left the country".

Shahbaz Bhatti's brother, Paul Bhatti, has welcomed the news of Asia Bibi leaving Pakistan as "great news".

It said: "The abuses of Pakistan's blasphemy laws are some of the starkest examples of persecution in Pakistan".

He reiterated his call for Islamabad to "reform or abrogate" its infamous blasphemy laws.

School textbooks still rarely mention the achievements of minority Pakistanis, while in the province of Punjab members of the Christian community occupy most of the slums in the region.

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