Asia Bibi: Pakistan lifts Christian woman's death sentence for blasphemy

Minnie Murray
October 31, 2018

ISLAMABAD-Pakistan's top court on October 31, acquitted a Christian woman who was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in 2010, a landmark ruling that sparked protests by hard-line Islamists and raised fears of violence.

Pakistani lawyers who are contesting the case against Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, speaks to media outside the Supreme court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 31, 2018.

"The appeal is allowed". Consequently, the conviction as also the sentence of death awarded to the appellant is set aside and she is acquitted of the charge.

Islamabad was put on high alert with extra security forces on Tuesday night ahead of the verdict.

A three-member panel of the Supreme Court of Pakistan consisting of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel heard arguments in Asia Bibi's case yesterday.

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.

We all woke up this morning to the news of the Supreme Court giving its verdict on the Asia Bibi case. The Lahore High Court had upheld that conviction and punishment.

"Asia Bibi has finally been served justice", lawyer Saiful Mulook said.


In February, Bibi's husband, Ashiq Masih, and one of her daughters met Pope Francis shortly before Rome's ancient Coliseum was lit in red one evening in solidarity with persecuted Christians, and Bibi in particular. A previous appeal hearing was adjourned in 2016 on a legal technicality.

She was asked to fetch water, but the Muslim women objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl. In 2011 Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was shot and killed by one of his guards for defending Ms Bibi and criticising the misuse of the blasphemy law.

While there are hundreds of Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus, and even Muslims who have spent long prison terms and many have been killed by religious extremists, the government of Pakistan has never executed anyone for blasphemy.

The case highlights two issues with blasphemy laws in Pakistan: how allegations can be used to settle personal scores, and lower-court judges feeling unable to acquit defendants for fear of their lives.

Meanwhile, CJP Nisar had observed that committing blasphemy was the most appalling and spiteful offence, and not only "our laws but the fundamentals of our religion also place strict standards of proof to prove the crime".

Ms Bibi's representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbours and her accusers had contradicted themselves.

Mumtaz Qadri was hanged for the killing but has been hailed a martyr by hardliners.

Asia Bibi, 47, had been on death row for eight years.

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