Asia Bibi stuck in Pakistan, frustrated and afraid amid threats

Protesters demand release of Asia Bibi, in Lahore, Pakistan, November 21, 2010.
Protesters demand release of Asia Bibi, in Lahore, Pakistan, November 21, 2010. | (Photo: Mohsin Raza)

A Pakistani Christian woman who was recently acquitted of all blasphemy charges after being imprisoned on death row for over eight years is still unable to leave Pakistan.

Asia Bibi, 54, has been transferred from a secret location near Karachi after having been previously hidden away at another location near Islamabad, the nation's capital, The Associated Press reported Saturday.

Aman Ullah, who has been a liaison between Bibi and European diplomats, spoke with Bibi Friday and said she is afraid and frustrated, unsure about when she will be able to leave the country. She told him that she's locked in one room of a house. The only time the doors open are during "food time." She is permitted to make phone calls in the morning and again at night. Bibi's husband is reportedly with her.

"She has no indication of when she will leave ... they are not telling her why she cannot leave,” said Ullah, who fled Pakistan Friday following threats from extremists who were angry about his longtime assistance to Bibi.

Bibi’s plight started approximately 10 years ago when two fellow field workers accused her of drinking from the same container as them and refused to drink after her because she is a Christian.

After a conflict of some sort, two Muslim women accused Bibi of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In Pakistan, being charged with committing blasphemy against Islam is punishable by death.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan ultimately said there were many inconsistencies in the testimony against Bibi, who has always said she was innocent, and was eventually acquitted.

According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Bibi is "living with her family and given requisite security for safety,” and the government is taking “all possible measures” to protect her and her family, and “she is a free citizen after her release from jail and can move anywhere in Pakistan or abroad.”

Ullah said that Bibi told her that her security detail will not tell her why she is still hidden away.

"In recent months, he has been physically assaulted, gunmen have opened fire on his home, and several religious radicals attacked his home. Ullah said he fears being attacked again or charged with blasphemy," the AP reported.

Bibi's daughters live in Canada where Bibi has been granted asylum and is hoping to join them.

Rimmel Mohydin of Amnesty International said in a Jan. 29 statement that with the Supreme Court's ruling refusing to reverse their decision, Bibi “must finally get her freedom and an end to her ordeal.”

“After nine years behind bars for a crime she didn’t commit, it is difficult to see this long overdue verdict as justice. But she should now be free to reunite with her family and seek safety in a country of her choice,” he said.

Mohydin and other human rights activists have repeatedly called for the Pakistani government to scrap their blasphemy laws as soon as possible, in addition to any other policies that discriminate against and endanger religious minorities.

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