Breaking News!!! Pakistani Supreme Court Frees Death Row Inmate Asia Bibi, At Last! 

Breaking News!!! Pakistani Supreme Court Frees Death Row Inmate Asia Bibi, At Last! 

 

In a historic ruling on October 31, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman on death row since 2010, under accusation of blaspheming against Prophet Muhammad, an allegation she has always denied.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar announced the verdict on Monday to a packed courtroom and ordered Asia Bibi released, declaring Asia Bibi innocent.  

The decision followed the hearing of Asia Bibi’s final appeal by a Supreme Court judicial panel on Oct. 8.

The landmark ruling sparked protests by hard-line Islamists and raised fears of violence.

In perhaps Pakistan’s most famous blasphemy case, Asia Bibi was arrested and imprisoned in June 2009 on allegation of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, following an argument with Muslim women over her use of a drinking vessel meant for Muslims. The following year she was sentenced to death. 

According to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan’s Penal Code, insulting the Prophet Muhammad is a crime punishable by death, while offending the Koran, Islam’s holy book, incurs life imprisonment. 

Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf, is the national director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (PCBC). Speaking to Vatican News, he described the Supreme Court’s October 31 verdict as a victory for the whole nation and a victory for justice.

Many Muslims are also victims of the blasphemy laws, Fr. Emmanuel 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.

According to the priest, most Pakistanis will be happy with the verdict in favour of “this poor lady” who, despite being innocent had to spend about 10 years in prison in solitary confinement.  

God listened to prayers.

According to the NCJP national director, God has listened to her prayers and the prayers of all of us, including those of the good-hearted Muslim brothers and sisters who believe in justice. 
The priest invoked blessings on the judges for delivering justice. He also invoked blessings on the nation saying Muslims, Christians and others, all are citizens of Pakistan and love their country. He said they need to continue praying for their nation.

Fr. Yousaf appealed to the entire world to pray for the Church in Pakistan that is suffering but which is strong in faith. He also urged for prayers for the country that it may prosper. 

Controversial blasphemy laws.      

The blasphemy laws remain an extremely sensitive issue in ‎the predominantly Muslim nation and they have ‎drawn intense criticism even within the country. Influential Punjab governor Salman Taseer and the Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were both assassinated in ‎2011 after they defended Asia Bibi and spoke out ‎against her death sentence and the misuse of ‎the blasphemy laws.‎‎

Protests across country
Following the announcement, protests broke out in various cities on the call of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right political and religious group led by firebrand Muslim leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi that has long called for Bibi to be executed. 

TLP leaders, including Rizvi, gathered outside government buildings in the eastern city of Lahore, while smaller groups of protesters blocked roads in the southern city of Karachi, the capital Islamabad and various towns in Punjab province.

Following the verdict, TLP called for the deaths of the judges who overturned Bibi’s sentence, as well as the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government.

[The judges] who have ordered the release of the accursed Aasia are all liable to be killed under religious edict,” said despicable Afzal Qadri, a TLP leader, at the Lahore protest.

TLP and its followers have often accused rights groups that work with those accused of blasphemy, and courts that have upheld appeals, of working under foreign influence. The lawyers for the complainant in the case, prayer leader Muhammad Salim, said they would decide whether to file a review petition after reading the detailed verdict.

We were expecting this decision, because the judges are bound in slavery,” said an angry Tahira Shaheen, one of Salim’s lawyers.

This is the slavery of the West, of which we have never been set free.”

Hundreds gathered at Islamabad’s Faizabad interchange, blocking a major highway and demanding that decision to acquit Bibi be rescinded [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]

Must take revenge’

In the capital Islamabad, hundreds of protesters gathered to block the main Faizabad highway interchange, a key entry point into the city.

We must take revenge for this verdict,” said Malik Bashir Awan, father to Mumtaz Qadri, the man who assassinated Punjab Governor Taseer in 2010 over his support for Bibi.

His words were met with loud cheers, and chants for those who commit blasphemy to be beheaded.

Bibi’s family, and those of other people accused of blasphemy, have long faced death threats, and are forced to change their whereabouts often due to security concerns. They were not present in court on Wednesday. 

The government is not interested in my security,” said Malook, Bibis lawyer. “That I am alive now is only under Allah’s protection”.

At the protest in Islamabad, demonstrators said they would continue to block the highway until their demands were met.

Our faith says that a blasphemer must be put to death,” said Hasan Chisti, 31, a vegetable shop owner who participated in a three-week TLP blockade of the same highway interchange last year.

We do not accept this decision at all, and we will stay here as long as our leaders demand it.” 

Meanwhile, let us thank God for sparing the life of Asia Bibi through the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and pray to God to remove the scales off the eyes of hate-filled, religious extremists and bring about their conversion! 

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