Asia Bibi barred from leaving Pakistan

Asia Bibi, the Christian Pakistani woman whose blasphemy conviction was overturned in a landmark decision by Pakistan’s highest court, will be barred from leaving the country after the Pakistani government made a deal with Islamist hardliners to end days-long protests around the country.

Major protests calling for the resignation of Supreme Court justices and the death of Bibi erupted after Bibi was acquitted on Wednesday.

According to the British Pakistani Christian Association, the agreement between Pakistan’s ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and anti-blasphemy Islamic hardline group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), puts Bibi on an “exit control list” which prevents her from leaving the country. The government also agreed that it would not oppose a review petition filed against the Supreme Court’s judgment in Bibi’s blasphemy case. From their side, the TLP issued an apology if their statements caused offence and have called off protests that were blocking the country’s major motorway and rail networks.

Wilson Chowdhry from the British Pakistani Christian Association told The Guardian that preventing Bibi from leaving Pakistan “is like signing her death warrant.”

Meanwhile, the AFP reports that Asia Bibi’s lawyer Saif Mulook has fled the country in fear of his life.

“I need to stay alive as I still have to fight the legal battle for Asia Bibi,” he said.

The BPCA says several countries have offered Asia Bibi asylum. She had been scheduled to be released from the prison where she was locked away for eight years later this week. There have been mixed reports about her current location, though it is believed she is still in Pakistan being held in a secure location.

Christians in Pakistan continue to ask for prayer. Read our full report on Asia Bibi’s acquittal here.