Asia Bibi,the Christian woman who has spent more than eight years in jail for blasphemy and who has been linked to two assassinations and spotlighted religious extremism in Pakistan ,is expected to leave the country after the Pakistan top court on Tuesday upheld her acquittal.
When she will leave and where she will go remain to be seen, however, with rampant unconfirmed speculation that she will seek asylum in a North American or European country.
Bibi has been under protective custody since,the Pakistan Supreme Court overturned her death sentence for blasphemy in October, last year.
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa – considered Pakistan’s top expert in criminal law – threw the petition out “on merit” Tuesday, lifting the last legal hurdle in the case by paving the way for her to leave the country.
“I think at this time she is here (in Pakistan) – but by tonight, I don’t know,” Bibi’s lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook told reporters outside the court,after hearing the ruling.
Reports claim her children have already fled to Canada. France also showed their interest to provide asylum for Asia Bibi,said it was ready to welcome Bibi and her family “if they wish”.
Earlier Tuesday the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which led violent protests demanding Bibi’s execution last year, called for its members to be ready for action. Small protests were reported in some cities late Tuesday.
Blasphemy remains a massively inflammatory issue in Pakistan, where even unproven accusations of insulting Islam can spark lynchings.Most of the blasphemy cases in Pakistan were reported on minority communities like,Christians.
In 2011 Salmaan Taseer, the then governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province who offered to support Bibi, was assassinated by his own bodyguard in Islamabad.
Shehryar Taseer, the son of former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer,on Tuesday tweeted “Justice! #AsiaBibi” after court ruling.
— Shehryar Taseer (@shehryar_taseer) 29 January 2019
Taseer’s murder was followed the same year by the killing of minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, who had also defended Bibi.
The accusation emerged from an argument after Bibi was asked to fetch water while working in the fields, but the women objected to her touching the water bowl as a non-Muslim.