Islamist Party Wants to Oust Pakistani PM as 'Blasphemous' Christian Woman Freed

Howard TerryNov 01, 2018

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

Bibi was set to be released immediately according to the court, although there was no word if any security arrangements were being made for her protection. The charge of blasphemy carries the death penalty in this majority Muslim nation.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Imran Khan formed a committee to hold talks to end the ongoing protests being staged across the country.

However, it was not clear where she will go as several countries, including Canada, have offered asylum to her.

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.

Streets were blocked in major cities as protesters condemned the ruling, paralysing parts of Islamabad, Lahore and other cities. "For the past eight years, Asia Bibi's life languished in limbo", said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director for Amnesty International.

"Asia Bibi has finally been served justice", he added.

Taseer had also called for Bibi's release.

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.

Khan's broadcast followed comments by a senior leader of the Islamist TLP group, calling for Chief Justice Nisar and the other two judges to be killed.

The three are on the hit list of Rizvi's Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, which has demanded a public execution for Bibi. Dozens have been killed following blasphemy claims, sometimes by mobs of men. No government official could immediately confirm any casualties. "If you do this, the state will fulfill its responsibility", he warned.

On Wednesday, cleric Afzal Qadri, with Rizvi by his side, urged a crowd of supporters outside the Punjab provincial parliament in the city of Lahore to revolt against army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and overthrow Khan's government. Religious minorities, who have been repeatedly targeted by extremists, fear the law because it is often used to settle scores and to pressure minorities. His assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, was executed in 2016 and has been feted as a hero by hardliners, with a shrine to him built by Islamists just outside the capital.

Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minister for minorities was also killed in 2011 after he demanded justice for Bibi.

The woman was convicted in 2010 after she allegedly insulted the Prophet Mohammed in a quarrel with Muslim workers over a bowl of water.

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