Contrasting reports as Asia Bibi still in Pakistan

Is she being held against her will or safely protected and awaiting asylum?

Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi is likely to be released from the country “in a matter of days”, according to British campaigner Wilson Chowdhry in an interview with Faithwire.

Chowdhry, of the British Pakistani Christian Association, contradicted earlier reports that Bibi was being held against her will in the southern port city of Karachi despite a Supreme Court decision that declared she must be freed immediately.

The Supreme Court upheld the overturning of Bibi’s blasphemy conviction on appeal last month

“The exact date and time of exit of the family is known by only a small handful of officials from Pakistan and the country of safe haven,” Chowdhry told the Christian news service. “However, my belief is that the exit will be conducted in a matter of days.”

His comments follow a story on newswire Associated Press that Bibi had been moved from the capital Islamabad and was locked with her husband in a room in Karachi.

The report quoted a friend of Bibi, Aman Ullah, who said he had spoken to her by telephone on Friday. He said the 54-year-old mother, who faces death threats from radical Islamists, was frustrated and frightened and uncertain when she would be able to leave Pakistan.

“The door opens at food time only,” he said, adding she is allowed to make phone calls in the morning and again at night, usually to her daughters. They are already safely in Canada, which has granted asylum to the whole family.

“She has no indication of when she will leave … they are not telling her why she cannot leave,” he said.

Ullah has been forced to flee the country due to threats from Islamic extremists which have arisen as a result of his advocacy work with Bibi.

By contrast, Chowdhry told Faithwire he believed Bibi and her husband Ashiq Masih were in good care.

“Officials from their future country of residence are providing security and all essentials to the family,” Chowdhry noted, adding that “Pakistani security forces are also very involved in the security of the family.”

Bibi’s many supporters are concerned by the length of time it is taking the Pakistani government to arrange her safe passage out of the country considering the danger to her life from extremists. The Supreme Court upheld the overturning of Bibi’s blasphemy conviction on appeal last month and demanded that Bibi be set free immediately.

However, Chowdhry insisted the delay was caused by certain “bureaucratic processes and the need to ensure good health of the couple.”

But Ullah said diplomats told him Bibi’s departure from Pakistan would come not in the short term, but “in the medium term.”

Bibi’s ordeal began in 2009 when two fellow farmworkers refused to drink from the same container as a Christian woman. There was a quarrel and the two Muslim women later accused Bibi of blasphemy. The Supreme Court judges found widespread inconsistencies in the testimony against Bibi, who has steadfastly maintained her innocence.