Prime Minister Imran Khan Address to Nation

Geneva Stokes
November 2, 2018

The Supreme Court overturned the death sentence that hung over Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010.

Pakistani lawyers who are contesting the case against Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, speaks to media outside the Supreme court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 31, 2018.

A leader of the hardline Islamist Tehreek-i-Labaik party, Muhammad Afzal Qadri, said all three Supreme Court judges "deserve to be killed".

Two Muslim women refused to drink from a container used by a Christian, and a few days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy.

However, a row broke out between Ms Bibi and the co-workers who insisted they could not touch the cup after she had drunk from it as the Christian faith is unclean.

Since her conviction, Mrs Bibi has spent her time in a filthy, 6ft by 9ft death row cell where she lives in fear of attack from other inmates.

"Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant's religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous", Judge Asif Saeed Khan Khosa added. Hundreds also blocked another key motorway, linking Islamabad with other major cities.

Authorities said she is scheduled for release later this week, after which her plans are unknown.

At a separate demonstration, outside the city's press club, speakers called for the government to ignore the Supreme Court verdict and execute Aasia Bibi.

The release of a Pakistani Christian woman who was acquitted eight years after being sentenced to death for blasphemy has been delayed.

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Pakistan overturns Christian woman Asia Bibi's blasphemy verdict, death sentence
When they demanded she convert to Islam, she refused, prompting a mob to later allege that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed. Muslim women she was labouring with allegedly objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

Bibi herself was not in the court when the ruling was announced but was reportedly in disbelief when she received news of her own acquittal in the prison cell.

Mr Rizvi's envoys wanted Ms Bibi barred from leaving the country, but information minister Fawad Chaudhry rejected the demand and said the government would not be dictated to.

FILE - In this November 20, 2010, file photo, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, listens to officials at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore.

Speaking out against the country's blasphemy laws is a unsafe platform. But the reaction to the Supreme Court decision has been fast, and fierce- hardliners are out protesting in the streets in most major cities. In 2010, a trial court convicted and sentenced her to death.

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

Chief Justice Saqib Nasir said at the appeal: "The conviction is set aside".

The protests come after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a forceful rebuke to the TLP in a nationally televised address in the ruling's wake, saying the government would not tolerate violent protests. Islamists gathered in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, in the northwestern city of Peshawar and elsewhere.

Critics of Pakistan's blasphemy laws have long claimed that they are open to abuse, and often used by accusers simply to settle petty scores or oppress religious minorities. Though the family has not disclosed the country of her destination, France and Spain have offered asylum.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws continue to generate controversy. Afridi said they will get the routes blocked by protesters reopened "through wisdom", for which all institutions were in coordination with each other.

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