Pakistani Authorities Move Asia Bibi to New ‘Secure Area’, But Reportedly Bar Her from Leaving the Country

Pakistani security officials stand guard as the supreme court hears an appeal against the acquittal for Asia Bibi.
Photograph: T Mughal/EPA

Pakistani authorities have moved Asia Bibi, a Christian woman recently acquitted of blasphemy charges, to a new “secure area” and are barring her from leaving the country, a close friend and rights campaigner has claimed.

Bibi, who spent eight years on death row, was transferred from a location near the capital to a house in the southern port city of Karachi, her friend Aman Ullah told the Associated Press. She and her husband are locked in a single room in a house where the door opens only “at food times”, he added.

Canada has offered her asylum and she wants to join her daughters there. Pakistani authorities have said she is free to travel, but Bibi, 54, says she is being prevented from going.

“She has no indication of when she will leave,” said Ullah, who added that Bibi was frightened and frustrated. “They are not telling her why she cannot leave.” He spoke to her by telephone, after the threats from extremists angered by his assistance to Bibi forced him to flee the country on Friday.

Ullah has been liaising with diplomats over the case, and he says they were told Bibi’s departure would only come “in the medium-term”.

Publicly, Pakistani authorities insist that Bibi is free both inside Pakistan, and to leave it. “She is living with her family and given requisite security for safety,” the information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, told the AP in an email.

He 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.”

Violent Islamists have threatened to track her down and kill her, some even suggesting that they will pursue her abroad if she leaves.

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SOURCE: The Guardian, Emma Graham-Harrison

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