Protests In Pakistan Delay Release Of Christian Woman

Protests In Pakistan Delay Release Of Christian Woman

Protests In Pakistan Delay Release Of Christian Woman

Bibi's acquittal has posed a challenge to the government of Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to power this summer partly by pursuing the Islamist agenda.

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad in a dispute with her neighbours.

She was then told off by a Muslim neighbor, who turned to other Muslim women in the area to tell them the Christian devotee had dirtied the water by drinking from their cup.

Bibi was the first woman in Pakistan's history to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, though others have been convicted and given lesser sentences.

Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in deeply conservative Muslim Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammed can provoke death at the hands of vigilantes. All roads in major cities in the country have been blocked as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TLP) called for a shutter-down strike.

According to the female commando, who asked to remain unidentified as she was not authorized to speak to media, Bibi upon hearing news of her release said the judges gave her a new life and she was grateful to them.

The trial stems from an argument Asia Bibi, whose full name is Asia Noreen, had with a group of women in June 2009.

The church in Pakistan is urging believers around the world to pray for Bibi and her family. Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was on death row for eight years.

ECL is the Exit Control List which basically that she is not allowed to leave the country.

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

Bibi has always denied blaspheming.

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.

However, over 2,000 Islamists continued blocking a key road linking the capital, Islamabad, with the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Friday, causing traffic jams.

Human rights activists have been actively seeking her release over the past several years to repeal the Pakistani court's death sentence.

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. We have no link with the case (of Bibi) but we want that justice should prevail. Allegedly, two Muslim women refused to touch the container after Bibi, saying that it was unclean because of her religion- Bibi is a member of Pakistan's Catholic minority. The apex court ordered her release.

"They are threatening the government, the judiciary and the army but it seems the government and military are reluctant because they fear backlash", said analyst Fasi Zaka. Mere calls to reform the law have provoked violence, most notably the assassination of Mr Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's most populous province Punjab, by his own bodyguard in broad daylight in Islamabad in 2011.

Bibi did not appear in the courtroom and her whereabouts were a closely held secret for fear of attacks on her and her family.

Freedom for Bibi in Pakistan, where university students have been lynched and Christians burnt in ovens over blasphemy claims, means a life under threat by hardliners, who regularly hold demonstrations calling for her execution. Hardliners treated Taseer's killer, Mumtaz Qadri, as a hero.

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