Aasia Bibi “could be flown out of Pakistan any moment”, lawyer tells Arab News

This undated file photo shows Multan district jail. On Wednesday night, Pakistani Christian woman Aasia Bibi was freed from Multan jail, where she has spent 8 years, and flown to a government facility in the capital Islamabad (Photo courtesy: Punjab Prisoners website)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Aasia Bibi “could be flown out of Pakistan any moment”, lawyer tells Arab News

  • Christian woman freed from jail a week after SC ruled in her favor in blasphemy case
  • Foreign Office denies report, terming it as “fake news”

ISLAMABAD: In what could be the defining moment ending an eight-year ordeal for a Pakistani Christian woman falsely accused of blasphemy, her lawyer said on Thursday that she was finally free and could be “flown out of Pakistan any moment”.
“Aasia Bibi has been released and is now in the government’s custody. She may be flown out of Pakistan any moment,” Saiful Mulook, Bibi’s lawyer, said in an exclusive interview to Arab News.
However, denying local media reports, Foreign Office Spokesperson, Dr Mohammad Faisal said on Thursday that Bibi was still in Pakistan. “There is no truth to reports of her leaving the country — its fake news,” he said.
The statement contradicts news reports from a day earlier – quoting Mulook -- which said that Bibi had been released from the women’s wing of a prison in Multan and was being flown to an “unknown destination”. However, reliable sources confirmed to Arab News that Bibi had been brought to Islamabad onboard a special plane which landed at the old Benazir Bhutto International Airport, adjacent to the Nur Khan Air Base.
Bibi, 51, was on death row for the past eight years after a lower court found her guilty in 2010. However, citing a lack of credible evidence in the case, the Supreme Court (SC) overturned the ruling last week, acquitting Bibi of all charges. The decision led to massive protests across the country, spearheaded by a far-right religious party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), who set several conditions for calling off the protests. Prime among these was that the SC overturns its verdict and places Bibi on the country’s Exit Control List (ECL).
Bibi’s case gained international prominence after a senior politician, who was supporting Bibi throughout her ordeal, was killed for criticizing the country’s blasphemy laws. In January 2011, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own guard for speaking in favor of Bibi.
The case came under the spotlight once again following the protests of the past few days which enraged devout Christians around the world and led to several countries offering her asylum. In a tweet to Pakistan’s authorities last night, European parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani thanked the government for moving Bibi to a safe place.
Mulook left the country fearing for his life -- following the SC verdict -- and might seek political asylum in the Netherlands.


South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators

Updated 37 sec ago
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South Korea dismantles guard posts with dynamite, excavators

  • Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them
  • The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month
CHEORWON, South Korea: South Korea exploded a front-line guard post Thursday, sending plumes of thick, black smoke into the sky above the border with North Korea, in the most dramatic scene to date in the rivals’ efforts to reduce animosities that sparked last year’s fears of war.
Last week the two Koreas finished withdrawing troops and firearms from some of the guard posts along their border before dismantling them. The steps are part of agreements signed in September during a meeting between their leaders in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
On Thursday, South Korea’s military invited a group of journalists to watch the destruction of a guard post with dynamite in the central border area of Cheorwon. The journalists were asked to stay hundreds of meters (yards) away as black smoke enveloped the hilly border area. They later watched soldiers and other workers bulldoze another guard post.
While most of the South Korean guard posts are being destroyed with construction equipment for environmental and safety reasons, dynamite was used for the first structure because of its location on a high hill where it was difficult employ excavators, the Defense Ministry said.
North Korea is demolishing its guard posts with explosives, according to South Korean media.
The guard posts are inside the 248-kilometer (155-mile)-long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile)-wide border called the Demilitarized Zone. Unlike its name, it’s the world’s most heavily fortified border with an estimated 2 million land mines planted in and near the zone. The area has been the site of violence and bloodshed since the 1945 division of the Korean Peninsula, and civilians need special government approval to enter the zone.
The Koreas each agreed to dismantle or disarm 11 of their guard posts by the end of this month before jointly verifying the destruction next month. South Korea had about 60 posts inside the DMZ guarded by layers of barbed wire and manned by troops with machine guns. North Korea was estimated to have 160 such front-line posts.
Under the September agreements, the Koreas are also disarming the shared border village of Panmunjom and clearing mines from another DMZ area where they plan their first-ever joint searches for Korean War dead. They’ve also halted live-fire exercises along the border.
The deals are among a set of steps they have taken since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reached out to Seoul and Washington early this year with a vague commitment to nuclear disarmament. The fast-improving inter-Korean ties have raised worries among many in South Korea and the United States as global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program has produced little recent progress.