Freed! Pakistan court acquits Christian on death row for blasphemy


This led to an argument in which she allegedly blasphemed Muhammad and someone reported her to a Muslim cleric. Trumpeting Qadri as a hero was a newly formed political party, called Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), that wants Pakistan to impose strict observance of Sharia law.

Responding to the opposition members, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi informed the house that negotiations with the protesters are under way and the nation will soon hear good news.

Bibi had been held at an undisclosed location for security reasons and is expected to leave the country. Open Doors said one Christian man said after hearing the verdicts, "Pray for Pakistan".

Given the hostility and threats in response to today's verdict, it is likely that Bibi and her family will need to seek asylum in another country. "They are committing vandalism", he said.

Officials said Bibi is at a safe facility but that she still fears for her life and has trouble sleeping, fearing someone might harm her. Meanwhile, Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih has reached Pakistan along with his family from the United Kingdom to shift her overseas, The News reported quoting sources.

Shortly after the ruling, hundreds of Islamists blocked a key road linking the city of Rawalpindi with the capital, Islamabad. Authorities deployed paramilitary troops, signalling that they could move in to clear the roads. She was then beaten nearly unconscious with sticks before being thrown in jail, where she was sentenced 17 months later to death by hanging. The Supreme Court decision to overturn her death penalty and set her free is a ray of light and a little step in the direction of a more pluralistic and progressive Pakistan.

Hafiz Saeed, a radical cleric wanted by the United States, urged followers to hold rallies across Pakistan on Friday to condemn Bibi's release.

By late afternoon, two other religious movements, including one headed by Hafiz Saeed, who has a $10 million USA bounty on his head for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, announced that they would also join the protests. Many Christian schools have warned parents to go and get their children from school because they would wish to close the buildings for fear of violence.

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Protesters demanded that Asia be publicly executed. Seven people were killed and more than 200 wounded in clashes with the police and TLP's supporters only dispersed after striking a deal with the military.

"I say to these people: do not confront this not damage this country for your vote bank", said Khan.

Bibi's lawyer, Saiful Malook, has gone into hiding as the extremists had threatened his life as well.

In a short video message for the country, Imran Khan expressed how he was "compelled" to address his nation because a "small segment" was using an objectionable language provoking people to attack Supreme Court judges and army generals. Bibi was the first woman who was given death sentence under the blasphemy laws. It is the norm in Pakistan for minorities to be considered inferior and most allegations of blasphemy are leveled against them to settle personal scores.

In 2011, Punjab governor Salman Taseer voiced his support for Asia and spoke up against the blasphemy law. Federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was also killed after calling for her release.

The illiterate Christian farm worker had angered Muslim co-workers on 14 June 2009 by drinking from the shared cup when she brought them a bucket of water as they picked crops together on a sweltering summer's day.

Under the Pakistan penal code, the offence of blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment.