Asia Bibi to leave Pakistan

Arturo Kim
November 2, 2018

But it was when Bibi pulled up some water from a nearby well, dipped her cup into the bucket and drank, that she heard the shouts. A few days later, a mob accused her of insulting Islam's prophet, leading to her 2010 conviction.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of Asia Bibi, a mother of five, and ordered her freed.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has attacked hardliners and appealed for calm after the acquittal of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy.

Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was shot dead by one of his guards in 2011 for defending Asia and criticising the misuse of the blasphemy law. The assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged for the crime, but later was hailed by religious hard-liners as a martyr, with millions visiting a shrine set up for him near Islamabad.

Security has been stepped up near the facility where Ms Bibi is being held, authorities said. All roads in major cities in the country have been blocked as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TLP) called for a shutter-down strike. Islamists gathered in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, in the northwestern city of Peshawar and elsewhere. Police urged demonstrators to disperse peacefully. Protesters have engaged in "clashes" with police, and paramilitary has been dispatched to keep protesters from the Supreme Court building in Islamabad. "For the past eight years, Asia Bibi's life languished in limbo", said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director for Amnesty International.

Also, a lawyer representing a local cleric who had raised the initial blasphemy charges against Asia Bibi petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday to reverse its acquittal.

The acquitted woman - Asia Bibi - was facing the death penalty for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam.

The law does not clearly define blasphemy and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence.

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In fact, just last week a learning disabled Christian man, Yaqoob Bashir Masih, was sentenced to life in prison for blasphemy after already being held for three years.

TLP, founded in 2015, blockaded the capital Islamabad for several weeks a year ago calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. Religious minorities, who have been repeatedly targeted by extremists, fear the law because it is often used to settle scores and to pressure minorities.

The unexpected address to the nation came after Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) Protesting across Pakistan in major cities like Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi.

He addressed the nation through a video message and his address was exclusively focused on the Asia Bibi verdict.

Asia Bibi's daughter, Eisham Ashiq, 18, told Aid to the Church in Need: "I am so happy". My children are very happy.

According to the NCJP national director, God has listened to her prayers and the prayers of all of us, including those of the good-hearted Muslim brothers and sisters who believe in justice. We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice.

If Salman Taseer were around today, he would be happy with this week's decision acquitting Asia Bibi, but anxious that she is still far from safe like others members of her community.

"[The protesters] are inciting you for their own political gain, you should not get trapped by them for the sake of the country, they are doing no service to Islam", Khan said in a televised broadcast.

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