In a significant ruling which can steer mass violence amongst hardcore Muslim radicals in the country, the Pakistan Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday, acquitted Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian mother, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for committing the offence of blasphemy i.e. profanely talking about God, by instigating two Muslim women.
Considering the gravethreat to Bibi's life in lieu of Blasphemy charges levelled against her, she was placed at a discreet location with strict security measures and is expected to leave the country soon, following the judgement.
Soon after the verdict, hundreds of Muslim radicals marched a violent procession in different parts of the country, assailing the judgement. The protesters even blocked a key road linking the city of Rawalpindi with the capital, Islamabad.
Regarded as an offence committed against Prophet Mohammed, blasphemy is considered as a dreadful offence, which has the potential to incite mobs to kill and thereby carries an automatic death penalty.
The accusations against Asia Bibi dates back to June 2009, when one day amidst their work on the farm, Asia Bibi decided to get water for her and her fellow farmworkers. However, it was during that time, when some Muslim women refused to consume water from the same container as used by Asia Bibi since she was a Christian.
It has been claimed that the Muslim women demanded Asia Bibi to convert to Islam, which was firmly refused by her. The arguments instigated Asia Bibi, who thereby in the heat of the moment feeling vexatious, made certain derogatory remarks and other statements against Prophet Mohammed. Subsequently, after five days, the Christian mother was accused by an angry Muslim mob of speaking sacrilegiously about God.
Holding Bibi liable for committing the offence of blasphemy, she was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010. Till date, Asia Bibi has been the longest prisoner in a case of blasphemy. Other prisoners, who were released despite the charges of blasphemy were pursuant to their release, gunned down by Islamic extremists. Ever since 2010, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has been approached for hearing of the final appeal in the matter.
Earlier in 2011, the former Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer and Shabbaz Bhatti came forward in support of Asia Bibi, wherein they extended their support towards her release and also challenged the prevalence of Pakistan's Blasphemy Law. This created a feeling of anger amongst the Muslim radicals, who thereby went on-to committing assassination of the two supporters. In 2015, the appeal was postponed twice and ultimately scheduled for hearing in October 2016. However, the proceedings were yet again postponed to a later date.
The Advocate on record for the petitioner, Advocate Saif-ul Malook, had in the previous hearing asserted before the court that the accusations levelled against Asia Bibi have been time and again proven to be fraudulent in nature and hence, it was imperative that justice be served and that Asia Bibi is completely exonerated from the wrongful conviction.
In the coming days, the judgement is expected to spark of a brutal fire that could ignite mass protests and violence amongst hardcore Muslim radicals.