Asia Bibi, a Christian woman freed from jail after Pakistan's top court overturned her death sentence in a blasphemy case, has not left for the Netherlands and any report saying so is most likely "fake news", Pakistani authorities said today.
Ms Bibi, 47, was freed from a jail in Multan on Wednesday night amid protests by hardliners in Pakistan. Media reports said Ms Bibi was taken to Noor Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi, from where she would be flown to the Netherlands.
"Asia Bibi was released from New Jail for Women Multan (350 km from Lahore) on Wednesday midnight. She is taken to Noor Khan Airbase Rawalpindi where a chartered plane will take her to Netherlands, " 24News reported today.
Other news channels reported Ms Bibi had left for the Netherlands.
However, Pakistan's foreign office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said the mother of five has not left the country. "There is no truth in reports about Bibi leaving the country -- it is fake news," he said.
Information minister Fawad Chaudhry also rejected the reports about Ms Bibi leaving the country. "It has become a norm to publish fake news for sake of headlines. Asia Bibi 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 said.
Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan spokesperson Hafiz Shahbaz Attari in a statement said, "The Imran Khan government has released Asia Bibi as the Netherlands ambassador in Islamabad reached Multan jail along with the government officials to ensure her release. She is being transported to Netherlands."
He said a call has been given to party workers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi to stop the government from letting Ms Bibi leave the country. The Pakistan Supreme Court's verdict on Ms Bibi prompted immediate anger from a hardline party that has threatened street protests if her acquittal was not reversed.
Italy has said it would help Ms Bibi leave Pakistan because her life is in danger. Her husband has asked the leaders of US, the UK and Canada to help her leave Pakistan.