Imran Khan promises Asia Bibi to leave country ‘in weeks’

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan promises Christian mother Asia Bibi will leave the country ‘in weeks’ five months after she was freed from a blasphemy death sentence

  • Asia Bibi was accused by Pakistani villagers of insulting the Prophet Mohammed
  • On death row for nine years but cleared by the Supreme Court in October
  • Ms Bibi, 53, has not been able to leave the country amid furious protests
  • Imran Khan said there was ‘complication’ but said it would be weeks til she left

Christian mother Asia Bibi spent nine years on death row after being accused of blasphemy

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised Christian mother Asia Bibi will leave the country in a matter of weeks, five months after she was freed from death row on blasphemy charges.

Ms Bibi, 53, spent nine years on death row before she was acquitted last October, but she still faces grave threats in her homeland.

Protesters have viciously continued calling for her death after she was accused of outraging the Prophet Muhammad. 

‘There is a little bit of a complication. And I can’t speak on the media about [it],’ Mr Khan told the BBC, adding ‘I can assure you she is safe and she will be leaving in weeks.’

It is thought Ms Bibi will be reunited with her three daughters who earlier fled to Canada where they were granted asylum. 

A source close to Ms Bibi said: ‘She is not safe until she gets out. There are powerful people who want her dead’. 

Imran Khan speaking in July last year, he said the Ms Bibi was safe and travel away would be facilitated within weeks

The daughters of Ms Bibi pose with an image of their mother while standing outside their home in Pakistan in 2010

Ms Bibi was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed when she rejected calls from Muslim women to convert to Islam

The ruling has infuriated Islamist protesters who say the 53-year-old ‘should be murdered’ for her crimes.

They have warned the mother she won’t be able to escape, as there are ‘Muslims everywhere who want to kill her’. 

Ms Bibi’s lawyer, who returned to Islamabad after fleeing the country amid death threats, called January’s decision a victory for Pakistan’s constitution and rule of law.

The three-judge Supreme Court panel had ‘insisted on very strict proofs of blasphemy’ and found none, Mr Malook said.

Pakistan’s Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa who led the panel of judges dismissed the petition filed by radical religious leaders.

The extremists had petitioned the court to overturn its acquittal and send her back to prison for execution.

He said in court that Ms Bibi’s accusers were guilty of perjury and if the case had not been so sensitive, they should have been jailed for life.

‘The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow,’ Mr Khosa said. 

Bibi, a Roman Catholic from Punjab province, was sentenced to death in 2010 in what swiftly became Pakistan’s most infamous blasphemy case. 

Blasphemy remains a massively inflammatory issue in Pakistan, where even unproven accusations of insulting Islam can spark lynchings.

Many cases see Muslims accusing Muslims, and rights activists say blasphemy charges are frequently used to settle personal scores.

Minorities – particularly Christians – are often caught in the crossfire.

The allegations against Bibi date back to 2009, when Muslim women accused her of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed, a charge punishable by death under Pakistan law. 

The mother of five was harvesting fruit with a group of Muslim women when a row broke out over a bucket of water. 

Islamist protesters (pictured protesting her in November 2018) have called for the 53-year-old to be lynched

A supporter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a hardline religious party, stands over an image of Ms Bibi as they protest her acquittal last November

The women said that because she had used a cup they could no longer touch it, because her faith had made it unclean.

Prosecutors alleged that in the ensuing row the women said Ms Bibi should convert to Islam.

It was claimed she made offensive comments about the Prophet in response.

At her home she was given a beating, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy. Police arrested her and she was sentenced to death.

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