Growing concern for Christians in Pakistan following Asia Bibi's acquittal

Growing concern for Christians in Pakistan following Asia Bibi's acquittal

A spokesman for the organization said, "We are relieved to hear that the Pakistani Supreme Court has dropped the charges against Asia Bibi-charges that were based simply on her Christian identity and false accusations against her".

Security forces moved quickly, deploying outside churches to protect minority Christians and urging demonstrators elsewhere to disperse peacefully. Major highways linking cities in the central province of Punjab, Pakistan's largest, were also shut down on Friday.

Pakistan's most senior judges have been praised for their courage in overturning a death sentence passed on a Christian woman for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Several mainstream religious parties were also set to hold separate demonstrations in major cities following Friday prayers. For almost eight years, Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian farmhand and mother of five, had her life languish in limbo.

In 2009, the farm worker and mother of five from the small town of Itan Wali was arrested for blasphemy over an argument with some Muslim co-workers who allegedly claimed they couldn't drink from a cup of water she had touched, as her Christian faith contaminated it. He asked his supporters to continue sit-ins as authorities summoned paramilitary troops to restore order.

Hafiz Saeed, an influential Islamist whom the USA accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday afternoon prayers. Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi was quoted by Geo TV as saying that the government is in consultation with the opposition for bringing the country-wide protests to an end.

"We are ready to die to show our love for the prophet", he said.


Mr Taseer had also called for Ms Bibi's release.

In his speech Pakistani Premier said: "I'm here only because a Supreme Court verdict was announced today".

Additionally, at least 65 people have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, including a 23-year-old student beaten to death on his university campus last year. Afridi said they will get the routes blocked by protesters reopened "through wisdom", for which all institutions were in coordination with each other. She's reportedly been taken to an undisclosed location and some expect she and her family will leave the country.

Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, had returned from Britain with their children in mid-October and was waiting for her to join them, the brother added.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan warned what he called a handful of protesters across the country to "not take the state on" over the landmark Supreme Court verdict. Not only that, the government has apparently chose to file a review against the Supreme Court's decision!

He said: "Let this legal process be completed first".

The outburst over the divisive blasphemy law prompted Prime Minister Imran Khan to go on national TV to guarantee their safety and criticise those who made verbal attacks on Pakistan's institutions, including his government. The judges were defying personal death threats and the promise by an Islamist political party to "paralyse the country within hours" if Bibi was set free.

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