Aasia Bibi leaves Pakistan, 'safely reunited' with family
Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was acquitted by the Supreme Court in a blasphemy case last year, has left Pakistan, a well-placed Foreign Office (FO) source told DawnNewsTV on Wednesday.
"Aasia Bibi has left the country. She is a free person and travelled on her independent will," the source said.
The source did not specify what her destination was.
Agence France-Presse (AFP), quoting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said Aasia Bibi has been reunited with her family.
"The United States welcomes the news that Aasia Bibi has safely reunited with her family," Pompeo said in a statement. "Aasia Bibi is now free, and we wish her and her family all the best following their reunification."
Aasia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy charges by the Supreme Court on October 31, 2018, after spending nine years in jail on death row. The ruling sparked country-wide protests by religio-political groups.
After she was released from a Multan women's prison on November 7 last year, she was flown to Islamabad via special aircraft, and then taken to an undisclosed location amid tight security.
The authorities remained tight-lipped about her movement and whereabouts for security reasons.
Qari Salam, the complainant in the case, filed a petition seeking review of the judgement in January this year, which the Supreme Court dismissed on merit.
The allegations against Aasia Bibi were made in June 2009 when she was labouring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women she was working with.
She was asked to fetch water, but the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl. A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.
Speaking on the incident that sparked the allegations, the top judge said: "You are saying that Aasia said this [alleged blasphemous words] while addressing 25 people. Was she addressing a jalsa [rally]?"
"In front of the investigation officer, the women said that no dispute had occurred between them," the chief justice noted. "This case did not have as many honest witnesses as it should have had."
"The investigation officer says that the female witnesses changed their statements. The testimonies of the investigation officer and the witnesses are different.
"The falsa farm's owner did not appear in court to record his testimony. According to the law, if a testimony is not recorded under Section 342 of the CrPC [recording a statement by the accused], then it does not have any value.
"The farm's owner only came forward after the police started the investigation, 20 days after [it started]. His testimony holds no legal value.
"The delay of an hour is enough to create suspicion."
The lawyer maintained that the petitioners did not add Aasia [to the case] due to any ill intention.
The CJP questioned the five-day delay in registering of the FIR regarding the incident, also pointing out that the testimonies differed over the size and the place of the crowd which had gathered following the accusations against Aasia Bibi.
"Qari sahib says a crowd had gathered and then the FIR was registered. The testimonies of the villagers do not mention a crowd gathering. A lot of lies were told about a crowd having gathered.
"Had this been a normal case, we would have registered cases against the witnesses; we have shown a lot of patience."
At this, the lawyer admitted that there was "some difference" in the testimonies. "Difference? These are lies," replied the chief justice.
"Is this the picture of Islam that he [Qari sahib] wants to present? Are these the kind of witnesses [that should be presented in a case]?"
"There is a clear difference between the testimonies of all the witnesses, and yet you block all of Pakistan questioning why you did not get your way," the CJP reprimanded the lawyer.
"You blame us and say what kind of people are we [for acquitting Aasia] ... look at yourself, what kind of accusation have you made.
"We took into account the sensitivity of the case, otherwise we would have put the witnesses in jail for their false testimonies.
"Are we liable to be murdered now that we have executed justice? Is this Islam?
"If a judge says a testimony can't be trusted, that judge's verdict is not acceptable to you — because it is not in your favour?"
Reiterating what Chief Justice Khosa had asked multiple times during the hearing, Justice Isa asked: "Tell us what the flaw in the verdict is."
"We will not hear the case again," remarked the CJP. "We are hearing [the petition] for the satisfaction of those who gave fatwas [on the verdict] without reading it."