Good news from the Pakistan High Court, at last! Catholics the world over have been praying for the release of Asia Bibi, imprisoned on a trumped up charge by radical Muslim women.
A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, a case that has polarised the nation.
Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours.
She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.
The landmark ruling has already set off protests by hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws.
There was a heavy police presence at the Supreme Court in Islamabad as many feared violence could break out.
People have also been gathering for protests against the verdict in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, and hundreds blocked a road between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Dawn newspaper reported.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisarm, who read out the ruling, said Asia Bibi could walk free from jail in Sheikupura, near Lahore, immediately if not wanted in connection with any other case.
She was not in court to hear the ruling, but reacted to the verdict from prison with apparent disbelief.
“I can’t believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?” AFP news agency quoted her as saying by phone.
What was Asia Bibi accused of?
The trial stems from an argument Asia Bibi, whose full name is Asia Noreen, had with a group of women in June 2009.
They were harvesting fruit when a row broke out about a bucket of water. The women said that because she had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean.
Prosecutors alleged that in the row which followed, the women said Asia Bibi should convert to Islam and that she made three offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad in response.
She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.
From CHRISTIANITY TODAY
“We are breathing a sigh of relief today,” stated David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, “… as these charges stemmed from her Christian identity as well as false accusations against her. We are hopeful that Pakistan will now take additional steps to offer religious freedom and basic human rights throughout the country.” Pakistan ranks No. 5 on the 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian.
By Samuel Smith , CP Reporter |
Muslim radicals in Pakistan have taken to the streets and are calling for the deaths of the Supreme Court justices responsible for releasing Christian mother Asia Bibi from death row.
Reuters reports that supporters of the Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) have not taken too kindly to the Supreme Court’s announcement Wednesday that it has acquitted Bibi (also known as Aasiya Noreen).
According to Reuters, the size of the protests grew and by mid-afternoon, had paralyzed parts of major cities like Islamabad and Lahore.
CNN reports that the demonstrators blocked a roadway in Lahore and forced a major road that links Islamabad and Rawalpindi to be closed off.
At a rally in Lahore, a city about 30 miles from where Bibi grew up and worked as a farmhand, TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri is said to have called for the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and the two other justices on the panel.
“They all three deserve to be killed,” Qadri was quoted as saying. “Either their security should kill them, their driver kill them, or their cook kill them.”
Qadri asserted that whoever has “access” to the justices should “kill them before the evening.”
Qadri’s call for the justices to be killed should be taken seriously as there has been a history of violence against politicians who speak against the Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and defend blasphemy victims.
In January 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri, who disagreed with Taseer’s desire to reform the blasphemy law. Taseer even filed a mercy petition on behalf of Bibi.
Two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian politician and elected member of the national assembly who voiced opposition to the blasphemy laws, was assassinated by Pakistan’s Taliban.