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No truth in reports that Asia Bibi has left Pakistan: FO

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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday rejected news reports that Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was acquitted by the Supreme Court last week in a blasphemy case against her, has left the country.

“She [Asia Bibi] is in Pakistan,” Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said during his weekly press briefing. “She is in a safe location in Pakistan.”

“There is no truth in reports that Asia Bibi has left the country,” he added. “Media should confirm such reports,” Dr Faisal asserted.

The FO spokesperson further said, “Asia Bibi is now a free citizen and can go where she pleases after the SC verdict. There is no ban on the movement of a free citizen.”

“A review petition has been filed in the court and the Ministry of Interior can inform regarding whether she can be legally barred from leaving the country,” he added.

The FO spokesperson’s statement came in response to reports that Bibi had left the country following her release from a prison in Multan on Wednesday night.

Shortly after FO’s clarification, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry slammed some media organisations for running the “fake news” regarding Bibi leaving the country.

“It has become a norm to publish fake news for sake of headlines, #AsiaBibi case is sensitive issue it was extremely irresponsible to publish news of her leaving the country without confirmation, I strongly urge section of media to act responsible,” he tweeted.

Last night, Bibi’s lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook in a text message to AFP said, “She has been freed.” He added, “I have been told that she is on a plane but nobody knows where she will land.”

The mother of five was headed for an unknown destination, her lawyer had further said.

“Asia Bibi has left the prison and has been transferred to a safe place!” tweeted Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament.

Earlier, a civil aviation official in Multan said a small plane arrived in the city with “a few foreigners and some Pakistanis” on board to fetch Bibi.

According to another civil aviation official, the aircraft that collected Bibi from jail would have been required to land in Islamabad but it was unclear if she may have had a connecting flight.

On the other hand, three security officials told Reuters early Thursday that Bibi was released from the Multan prison. She was flown to the airport near Islamabad but was in protective custody because of threats to her life, they said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Bibi’s release came a week after her acquittal in a landmark case that triggered angry protests in the country and following appeals from her husband, Ashiq Masih, for Britain or the United States to grant the family asylum.

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