OTTAWA: The daughters of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi, whose blasphemy case spotlighted religious extremism in her country, are now in Canada, a source close to the case said Wednesday.
Unconfirmed Pakistani reports earlier claimed the children had already fled to Canada, and speculation was rampant that she would seek asylum in North America or Europe.
Canadian officials reached by AFP would not confirm the source’s information.
Bibi, a laborer from central Punjab province, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and was on death row until her acquittal last year which prompted days of violent demonstrations.
Under a deal with protesters to end the violence, the government allowed a petition demanding an appeal against the acquittal.
But Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Tuesday threw out the petition, lifting the last legal hurdle in the case and paving the way for her to leave the country.
After the ruling, Bibi’s lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook hinted that his client’s move could be imminent.
"I think at this time she is here (in Pakistan) -- but by tonight, I don’t know," he told reporters outside the court.
Extremists "said they would kill her despite the judgment of the Supreme Court," he said. "Therefore, I think she should leave the country."
But the call by religious hardliners for protests fell flat on Wednesday, when fewer than 30 demonstrated in two cities.
Bibi has been in protective custody and the government of Pakistan refused to reveal her whereabouts for fear of her being targeted by vigilantes.
In a statement, Canada’s foreign ministry said Bibi’s case "is a priority for our government, and we are focused on ensuring the safety of her and her family."
It added that "we are working with like-minded friends and allies on this issue. Canada is prepared to do everything we can to ensure the safety of Asia Bibi."
In November Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa was holding talks with Pakistan about bringing her to Canada, which he said is "a welcoming country."
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