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World

Relief as Asia Bibi finally leaves Pakistan as a free woman

By Danielle Jarvis

Asia Bibi is finally free to leave Pakistan after the Supreme Court rejected a petition to review the acquittal of her blasphemy death sentence.

Pakistan’s most famous blasphemy law victim was finally released from her homeland where she has become the most hated figure in the country, despite law courts exonerating her from the false charges that had kept her incarcerated in solitary confinement for almost 10 years. However, while free from prison, she was far from safe while stranded in Pakistan.

However, it has been confirmed that she has safely exited Pakistan, headed for Canada. Asia Bibi bravely held on to her faith through the most brutal of incarcerations that involved her having access to sunlight for two hours per month. Now she finally travels to Canada to be reunited with her children.

Asia, a berry-picker, was beaten and raped for an alleged blasphemy offense in June 2009 when she reacted to the abusive treatment she was receiving for drinking from the same well as Muslims. While she was being beaten and berated by women colleagues, she simply uttered the words ‘my Christ died for me. What did Muhammed do for you?’ The men workers from her berry field then began their attack and returned with a mob a few days later to lynch her.

Other local Christians called the police to get her put into safe custody, but then a local Imam (Islamic preacher) then accused her of blasphemy and stated that he had personally witnessed the blasphemy despite being at neither event where the alleged crimes took place.

Asia Bibi was failed her High Court Appeal in November 2016, however on 31st October 2018, a Supreme Court Appeal exonerated her original charges and although the decision was made through Pakistan’s Apex Court, she was forced to remain in the country to address a petition to her Supreme Court decision submitted by extremist group Tehreek-e-lebaaik. This was after the country’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, capitulated to the demands of extremists whose riots had brought the country to a standstill.

On 29th January, three months after her acquittal by the Supreme Court, the court finally quashed the petition by Tehreek-e-Labaaik in essence finally declaring Asia Bibi free and freeing her from her original charges completely.

On 11 April 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that a “complication” has delayed the departure of Asia Bibi from the country.

Several campaigns prior to Asia Bibi’s conviction and since have failed to alter or remove the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan. These laws were introduced to India by Britian in 1860 to protect Muslims from Hindus, but the Pakistan Penal Code was islamised in the 1980’s by dictator Zia Ul Haq and have since been used as a tool for discrimination by Islamists and to exhort property and settle vendettas with Christians and Ahmadis by Muslims.