A Lahore-based TV news channel reported that Asia Bibi was released from New Jail for Women in Multan (around 350km from Lahore) late on Wednesday night and taken to Noor Khan Airbase, Rawalpindi, from where a chartered plane would take her to the Netherlands.
Asia Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.
Italy lends support
Earlier, Italy had said that it was working to help Asia Bibi leave Pakistan, amid warning from the woman’s husband that her life was in danger. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, had also urged US President Donald Trump, and the UK and Canada premiers to help her leave Pakistan.
Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) spokesperson Hafiz Shahbaz Attari, in a statement, said, “The Imran Khan government has released Asia Bibi as the Netherlands Ambassador in Islamabad reached Multan jail along with government officials to ensure her release. She is being transported to the Netherlands.”
He said the party workers who are gathering in Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been asked to stop the government from allowing Asia Bibi from leaving the country.
The Pakistan Supreme Court’s landmark verdict acquitting Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges had sparked countrywide protests and death threats from hardline groups. Protestors led by Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups had blocked major highways and roads in different parts of the country.
However, the TLP later called off its agitation following an agreement with the government that assured initiation of a legal process to place the woman on the exit control list that will prevent her from flying abroad.
It was also agreed upon that the government would also not oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Asia Bibi blasphemy case.