Date: January 29, 2019
Christian Mother Finally Free to Leave Pakistan
Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy in 2009 and was the only woman in Pakistan’s history to be sentenced to death under the country’s notorious blasphemy laws. In announcing the decision to uphold Bibi’s acquittal, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said, “Based on merit, this petition is dismissed.”
“Justice and truth has prevailed,” Sajid Christopher, President of Human Friends Organization, told ICC. “Our hats are off to the judges. Asia is completely free now.”
“The review was not a rehearing of the case,” Saif-Ul-Malook, Bibi’s Supreme Court Advocate, told the media after the decision was announced. “The court allowed the review just to make them satisfied that nothing on the record could be turned against the judgement.”
On October 31, 2018, Pakistan’s Supreme Court announced that they had acquitted Bibi of the blasphemy charges that had kept her on death row for nearly a decade. In explaining its decision, the court said that there was ultimately not enough evidence to convict Bibi.
Following the announcement of the acquittal, thousands of religious hardliners took to the streets in protest. These protesters demanded the court review its decision and not allow Bibi to leave Pakistan until that review had taken place.
Since her acquittal, Bibi has remained in the custody of Pakistani authorities at a secure location inside the country. According to those in contact with Bibi, her conditions at this secure location remain eerily similar to prison. Friends of Bibi’s family explained that Bibi was not even able to open a window in her hideout.
Bibi was on death row since her conviction and death sentence were announced by the Sessions Court in Sheikhupura in 2010. The blasphemy accusation against Bibi was based on flimsy evidence following a dispute that took place in June 2009 between Bibi and a group of Muslim coworkers with whom she had been harvesting berries in Sheikhupura. The Muslim coworkers became angry with Bibi when she, a Christian whom they considered unclean, drank water from the same water bowl as the Muslims. An argument between Bibi and the Muslim women ensued and later the Muslim coworkers reported to a local cleric that Bibi had blasphemed against the Prophet Muhammad.
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “We here at ICC are excited to see that Asia’s acquittal has been upheld. Our prayers now are with Asia and her family as they are in extreme danger until they are safely out of Pakistan. We are also very concerned for the safety of Pakistan’s Christian community at large. Asia’s case remains highly sensitive and the ignition point for many acts of religious hatred. It is our hope that Pakistan’s security forces will be able to protect all Pakistani Christians as extremists will likely seek revenge against their community.”