ISLAMABAD – 31 October 2018 – The prayers of tens of thousands of Christians for the release of Asia Bibi were answered today when Pakistan’s Supreme Court handed down her acquittal. She has been on Pakistan’s death row for nearly a decade.
The Christian woman had been sentenced to death under Pakistan’s strict anti-blasphemy laws. Her crime was taking a sip of water from a cup she had gotten for her fellow farm workers on a hot day. The blasphemy was that she had made the cup unclean. Her Muslim coworkers would not drink from the cup unless she converted to Islam then and there because she had insulted their prophet, Mohammed.
The case has gained the attention of the media and the prayers of Christians around the globe. Her acquittal is not the end of the story.
Mobs of Muslim demonstrators have gathered in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and Multan even in advance of the court’s announcement, demanding Bibi’s execution. The judges and attorneys have received multiple death threats should they acquit her. The court made its decision on October 8th but reserved the announcement of their decision until today.
The Guardian reported that paramilitary forces have been deployed across the capital city to protect the Judges Enclave and the diplomatic zone. About 300 police have been stationed outside of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the Red Zone, where the Supreme Court is located, has been entirely sealed off.
Members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), a new political party dedicated to punishing blasphemy, blocked thoroughfares and threw stones at police after the verdict was announced. The party leaders promised to “paralyze the country within hours” if the Supreme Court released Bibi.
The head of the TLP party, Afzal Qadri, has pronounced a death penalty for the three Supreme Court justices.
The judges ruled that the prosecution had “categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, that the evidence against her was flimsy, the complainant was not present when the alleged activity took place, and the testimony of the witnesses against her were contradictory.
Although some are hoping that the decision, in this case, will be a precursor to revising Pakistan’s stringent anti-blasphemy laws, others believe that lower court judges, who fear for their lives if they acquit innocent defendants, will feel encouraged to find those defendants guilty so that their cases will be elevated to the Supreme Court.
Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan, supports the blasphemy laws.
Christians need to continue in prayer for Asia Bibi’s safety after her release. It is likely that she will be whisked out of Pakistan to a safe haven elsewhere. She is likely to spend the rest of her life as a marked woman.
To read more news on Asia Bibi on Missions Box, go here.
- New York Times, Pakistani Court Acquits Christian Woman in Capital Blasphemy Case
- The Guardian, Asia Bibi: Pakistan court overturns blasphemy death sentence
- My Christian Daily, Asia Bibi Free After 10 Years In Prison
- BBC News, Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row
- ABC News Australia, Asia Bibi’s blasphemy verdict, death sentence overturned in Pakistan
- Missions Box News, Asia Bibi’s appeal court date pushed back again