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Pak blasphemy case: Despite SC order, Asia Bibi still in jail amid protests

Thousands of Islamists poured onto the streets in protest after Supreme Court judges overturned Asia Bibi's conviction

AFP I PTI  |  Islamabad 

Asia Bibi

One week after the country's highest court ordered her release, a Pakistani Christian who has spent eight years on death row for was still in prison Wednesday, with no immediate prospect of freedom.

Thousands of Islamists poured onto the streets in protest after judges overturned Asia Bibi's conviction, in a case that has laid bare the divisions between traditionalists and modernisers in the devoutly Muslim nation.

Ultra-conservative Islamists blockaded major cities to demand her immediate execution, in a three-day stand-off that ended when Prime Minister Imran Khan's administration agreed to allow a review of the Supreme Court's ruling.

Critics blasted the climbdown -- which came just days after Khan vowed to confront the protesters -- as another capitulation to religious conservatives. The deal has left Bibi in legal limbo -- and languishing in jail for a crime of which she has been acquitted.

"is in Multan jail and has not been released yet. We have not received orders to release her so far," Zawar Hussain Warraich, minister for prisons in Punjab province, told AFP.

"Normally we receive orders in two days after court judgement and if relatives and lawyers of a prisoner are very active, they can bring it even within a day, but as far as is concerned, it has not happened yet," Warraich added.

"should issue a directive to send us her release orders. We will release her as soon as we get it."

He denied reports that extra security had been laid on for Bibi, saying "she is already well protected by the jail staff".

An appeal has been filed with the court against Bibi's release and the party that headed the protests demanding her execution, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, has warned its hardliners were prepared to take to the streets again.

is an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unsubstantiated allegations of insulting Islam can result in death at the hands of mobs.

First Published: Wed, November 07 2018. 22:40 IST