Pakistan Frees Asia Bibi from Blasphemy Death Sentence

Jailed Christian mother acquitted after eight years, but threats of violent nationwide protests persist.

Today the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Asia Bibi of committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad, a crime punishable with death in Pakistan, amid threats of countywide paralyzing protests and “horrible” consequences to the justices and the army generals if she was released.

Asia’s husband Ashiq Masih and their two daughters, currently in London, anxiously awaited her safe release from eight years of wrongful detention and reunion with her. The AFP reported that the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) in the capital, Islamabad, which played a pivotal in 1980’s and 1990’s in recruiting and trainingmujaheedin for the Soviet-Afghan war, had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court to put her name “on the no-fly list” so that she could not go out of the country: the Red Mosque “will become a centre for the anti-government movement if Aasia” is released.

Asia was the first Christian woman sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and only the second to Ayub Masih, released in 2002, whose blasphemy case has gone up to the Supreme Court and released.

Earlier, on October 8, a three member bench—Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel—heard arguments from both sides and reserved the verdict until today.

The hardline Islamic party, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), held countrywide protests on Sunday (Oct. 14) and warned the justices would meet a “horrible” end if Asia bibi would be released. The TLP is “a staunch supporter of the blasphemy law and openly justify violence to safeguard what they call the honor of the prophet.” The current situation frightens the minuscule …

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