Protests rage in Pakistan after woman acquitted of blasphemy

02 November, 2018, 23:10 | Author: Emmett Rice
  • Aasia Bibi

Her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore High Court in 2014.

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

"We are very happy". We are grateful to God.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar came to an "inescapable and irresistible" conclusion that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

In overturning her conviction, the ruling said the evidence against Bibi was insufficient. "We are not going to step back", radical Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) - which had threatened the judges with dire consequences if Asia Bibi was acquitted - said in a statement. CNN reported that her Muslim co-workers refused to drink from the bucket because she is a Christian and her touching the bucket made it unclean.

The protests had begun following the Supreme Court's October 31 verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi of blasphemy charges. In September 2017, Nadeem James, a 35-year-old Christian, was sentenced to death for forwarding a poem to a friend that was deemed insulting to Islam.

The landmark ruling could ignite mass protests of violence by hardline Islamists in Pakistan, where insulting the religion is punishable by death. Authorities also stepped up security near the facility where Bibi was being held for her safety. All important roads in Lahore, were blocked by Islamists.

By late afternoon, two other religious movements, including one headed by Hafiz Saeed, who has a $10 million US bounty on his head for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, announced that they would also join the protests.

Hafiz Saeed, an influential Islamist whom the United States accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday Prayers on November 2.

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Military's spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Friday the army was exercising restraint, to give a chance for a peaceful resolution.

Large protests were also held in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, bringing parts of those cities to a virtual standstill.

Security was tight in capital Islamabad where paramilitary forces were deployed to protect the Supreme Court and others sensitive areas.

Bibi's family and her lawyer say she never insulted the prophet. In previous hearings her attorney, Saiful Malook, pointed to contradictions in testimony from witnesses.

Demonstrators in Pakistan have vowed to keep rioting until a decision to free Bibi from death row is reviewed.

"The decision of the judges is according to the constitution and Pakistan's constitution is according to the teachings of Islam".

To this, Bibi was called a "piece of filth" who would "pay dearly for what you've said". "It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant's name Asia means "sinful" but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare's King Leare, 'more sinned against than sinning'".

Noting that many Muslims are also victims of the blasphemy laws, Fr. Yousaf said that the verdict is beneficial for all the citizens of Pakistan, irrespective of whether they are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh or of other faiths.

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