ICMD, Nov 7, 2018

Authorities on late Wednesday night freed Asia Bibi, a Christian woman recently acquitted by the Supreme Court in a blasphemy case, from a women’s prison in Multan, sources said.

Jail authorities had earlier in the day received documents pertaining to her release after which she was freed, they added The allegations against Bibi dated back to June 2009, when she was accused of blasphemy.

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010, despite her advocates maintaining her innocence and insisting the accusers held grudges against her. On October 31, the Supreme Court acquitted Bibi and ordered her release.

On Wednesday, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi said the federal government will uphold the Supreme Court verdict and not place Asia Bibi’s name on the exit control list (ECL) until she is proven guilty.

“Until someone is proven guilty, how can we place his name on the ECL? There can be no question about that,” the minister told Voice of America in an interview. “The government will uphold whatever the Supreme Court decides,” he asserted, in response to a question about an agreement signed between government and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which stated that ‘due process will be followed immediately to include the name of Asia Bibi in the ECL’.

Afridi said the rumours circulating about Asia Bibi leaving Pakistan are false. “Asia Bibi and her family are in Pakistan and they are being provided security by the government,” he added.

The Supreme Court on October 31 acquitted Bibi after blasphemy charges could not be proven against her and ordered her immediate release. Following the verdict, violent protests erupted in several cities across the country wherein public properties were damaged and vehicles set on fire. The demonstrations also saw blockades of roads, closure of schools, colleges and universities, as well as cancellation of examinations.

Speaking about the countrywide protests following the top court’s verdict acquitting Bibi, Afridi said among the protesters, there was a group of people who damaged public properties for their own personal gains. He said the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leaders who signed an agreement with the government to end the demonstrations have already distanced themselves from those miscreants. “When we informed TLP leaders of the miscreants and showed them the footages, they refused to accept them as their workers,” he added.