Asia Bibi: Canada in talks with Pakistan over asylum

Asia Bibi on death row since 2010 after a blasphemy charge was acquitted by the Supreme Court on Wednesday and ordered set free triggering protests by ultra-conservative Islamists who paralysed Pakistan for three days

Asia Bibi on death row since 2010 after a blasphemy charge was acquitted by the Supreme Court on Wednesday and ordered set free triggering protests by ultra-conservative Islamists who paralysed Pakistan for three days

The Pakistani government responded by brokering a "deal" with the Islamists to allow yet another appeal on Bibi's case, though the Supreme Court is the nation's court of last resort, in exchange for a temporary end to protests.

Pakistan's information minister, Fawad Chaudry, said pictures which claim to show Mrs Bibi meeting Pope Francis are actually of her daughter, and date from two years ago.

Blasphemy is a highly charged issue in Pakistan, where mere allegations or accusations that someone had insulted the Prophet Mohammed can incite mobs into a frenzy of violence. The charge also carries the death penalty and critics say the controversial blasphemy law is abused to settle religious scores.

Bibi's lawyer, Saiful Mulook, fled to the Netherlands soon after the verdict, citing death threats.

She has been flown to a safe place, but the Pakistani government has been forced to deny she has left the country after doctored photographs emerged. The politician's constituency is in a deeply conservative region in the country's north-west.

"We are trying to seek co-operation from Twitter and Facebook against such fake news", Mr Chaudhry added.

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Bibi's conviction stemmed from a 2009 incident when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields.

Protests had erupted in several cities after the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, on October 31.

Malook said Ms Bibi, her husband and children were under the protection of the Army and police in the wake of threats from radical Islamists who demanded a public execution, rejecting her acquittal.

In 2011, a Punjab Governor Salman Taseer assassinated in Islamabad, reportedly in part due to his defence of Asia Bibi. A year later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minorities and a Christian, was shot and killed.

Last week, Canada urged Pakistan to ensure Bibi's well-being and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government was "extremely engaged in this issue".

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