Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy

Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy

A Christian woman who has been acquitted of blasphemy must not leave Pakistan until there is a judicial review of her acquittal.

The ban is part of an agreement between the government and a harsh party behind nationwide protests that have brought the country to a standstill for days.

The protests ended after the government agreed to the demands of the Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan Party (TLP) to review the acquittal of the 54-year-old mother of four Asia Bibi.

The Pakistani Supreme Court overturned a blasphemy conviction on October 31 for Bibi, a Roman Catholic who spent eight years on death row.

TLI spokesman Pir Ijaz Qadri said the party called sit-ins from thousands of demonstrators in major cities that had blocked main highways for three days and stalled across the country.

The Minister of Religious Affairs, Noorul Haq Qadri, said on 3 November that Bibi is now being prevented from leaving the country until the Supreme Court has definitively reviewed his verdict.

The court said that there is insufficient evidence that Bibi committed blasphemy, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan.

The court decision was praised by Christians and human rights activists around the world, but the Muslims were stubborn.

In Pakistan, there was no judicial execution for blasphemy, but 20 of the defendants were murdered.

People like Bibi, accused of blasphemy but later released, had to flee the country for their safety.

Christians make up only about two percent of the Pakistani population and are sometimes discriminated against.

Meanwhile, Saif-ul-Mulook, Bibi's lawyer, left the country on November 3 and said his life was in danger.

"In the current scenario, I can not live in Pakistan," the lawyer said before boarding a plane to Europe.

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi

"I have to stay alive as I still have to fight the dispute over Asia Bibi," he said.

On November 2, protesters called for "hanging up the blasphemy" and "hanging the judges" as they marched through the capital, Islamabad.

The TLP held nationwide sit-ins. Trailers blocked important thoroughfares and led to blockades and school closures at major hubs such as Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.

TLP supporters close to Swat and Bannu in Pakistan's northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have appealed in their hundreds to protest the court decision.

The TLP, which was founded in 2015, blocked Islamabad for several weeks last year, calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.

According to a 2018 report by the US Commission on International Freedom of Religion (2018), about 40 people were on death row in Pakistan or sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy.

According to the Lahore Center for Social Justice, at least 1,472 people were prosecuted under Pakistan's blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2016. It is said that Muslims made up a majority of the defendants, followed by members of the Ahmadi, Christians and Hindu minorities.

Right-wing groups say the laws are increasingly exploited by religious extremists and ordinary Pakistanis to identify personal values.

With reports from AFP, AP and Reuters
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