Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row

Bibi has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy against Islam

Bibi had been on death row for eight years following her arrest in the central Pakistani village of Ithan Wali over an argument with two Muslim women, who refused to drink water from the same vessel as her due to her religion.

Earlier, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, sentenced to death over blasphemy allegations.

"I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really?"

Agence France-Presse news agency quoted Bibi's reaction by phone following the ruling.

"This is not a question of Christian or Muslim, but an example of how these judges took the burden on their shoulders to give a right decision, a just verdict", he said.

As Prime Minister Imran Khan reached China amid Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan's (TLP) nationwide protests, an old tweet of his has gone viral over the social media, in which Khan had criticised the then premier for traveling overseas as the country "burned".

Schools and colleges have been closed after radical cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, announced that "talks" between his deputies and the government about Ms Bibi's fate had failed.

But the acquittal was met with near silence on the country's airwaves as broadcasters appeared to be steer clear of covering the controversial topic. But the reaction to the Supreme Court decision has been fast, and fierce- hardliners are out protesting in the streets in most major cities. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, returned from Britain with their children in mid-October and was waiting for her release so that they could fly out of Pakistan.




After several weeks of delays and threats by Islamists groups against the panel judges, the Supreme Court overturned her death sentence today and ordered her immediate release.

"This is the biggest and happiest day of my life". Several Western countries offered her asylum.

After being beaten up at her home she confessed to blasphemy.

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.‎‎.

However, a row broke out between Ms Bibi and the co-workers who insisted they could not touch the cup after she had drunk from it as the Christian faith is unclean.

She appealed against the conviction in the Supreme Court, which for the first time heard the case in July 2015.

"I don't see any derogatory remarks vis-a-vis the holy Koran as per the FIR", added Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, referring to the initial complaint filed in the case.

After years of religious rhetoric as an essential element of national politics and statecraft, Pakistan often finds itself at the mercy of hardline clerics and unscrupulous individuals seeking to exploit religion for political gain. In 2011 two liberal politicians in Pakistan were murdered for speaking out on her behalf and calling for reform of the "blasphemy laws". Pope Benedict XVI called for her release.

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