Widespread protests across Pakistan over the supreme court’s reversal this week of Asia Bibi’s 2010 death penalty verdict for alleged blasphemy on Friday delayed the release of the Christian mother who family members believe needs to leave the South Asian country soon, citing fears for her safety.
The delay, driven by a petition to the Supreme Court to review Wednesday’s verdict to release Bibi, came despite fears for the safety of the Christian mother.
Protestors have threatened Bibi, her lawyer, and the judges who acquitted her.
“She has no other option, and she will leave the country soon,” James Masih, her brother, told Dawn.
“She can’t be safe here,” Bibi’s brother-in-law, identified only as Nadeem, also told Pakistani newspaper.
“You know what’s going on outside. We want things to settle down before we go ahead for her release,” Nadeem added, referring to protests.
Saiful Mulook, Bibi’s lawyer, noted that he is facing threats from extremists.
“I think I have absolutely no safety. No security and I am the easiest target … anybody can kill me,” he told Dawn.
Following talks with demonstrators who have threatened to hang Bibi publicly, authorities agreed to bar the mother of five from flying abroad on Friday, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
The Islamist Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which rose to prominence during the recent elections by campaigning on punishing blasphemy, orchestrated the protests across Pakistan, which have been raging since the country’s supreme court acquitted Bibi and ordered her release on Wednesday.
[Friday’s] agreement between the government and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party was reached in the city of Lahore where Islamists have been rallying since Wednesday when the Supreme Court overturned the 2010 conviction of Asia Bibi for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
Pakistani authorities will now not allow Bibi to leave the country until the Supreme Court makes a final review of its verdict, said provincial minister Noorul Haq Qadri, according to the agreement.
The agreement comes a day after Ghulam Mustafa, the lawyer representing the provincial cleric who filed the initial blasphemy charges against Bibi, petitioned the Supreme Court judges to review her acquittal.
According to AP, the supreme court has yet to schedule a date to take up the petition.
“Pakistan’s Supreme Court has not been known to reverse its decisions, but court reviews typically take years. Bibi’s ordeal will continue until the review is completed,” AP declares.
Imran Khan, the recently elected prime minister, has urged the thousands of Islamist protesters to respect the supreme court’s decision.
Pakistan has held Bibi since 2009 on years on charges that she defamed Muhammad, an offense that carries a punishment of life in prison or death.
A Pakistani court sentenced Bibi to hang in 2010 for allegedly making “defamatory and sarcastic” comments about the prophet Mohammad after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.
Bibi has maintained her innocence throughout her incarceration.