Pakistan Islamists call off protests over blasphemy acquittal in deal with government

Pakistan Islamists call off protests over blasphemy acquittal in deal with government

In recent years, it has also been weaponised to smear dissenters and politicians. The result is not only loss of individual liberty but also a state of permanent crisis.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who published this footage, reported that supporters of Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party in Swat had called for the Supreme Court judges to be killed for their ruling.

Ms. Bibi, an illiterate berry picker, was convicted of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed.

FILE - In this November 20, 2010, file photo, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, listens to officials at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore.

Critics say strict blasphemy laws have often been used to get revenge after personal disputes, and that convictions are based on thin evidence.

The court has set no dates to take up the petition, but Bibi's release could be further delayed by the process.

Those talks collapsed early Friday after the government refused the group's request that Bibi be forbidden from leaving the country. Bibi reportedly remains in an undisclosed location for her safety. The apex court ordered her release.

"The Supreme Court of Pakistan has rendered such an excellent judgement, it is a landmark judgement, a milestone judgement", said Tahira Abdullah, a human rights activist.

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 case led to the murder of a prominent governor, Salmaan Taseer, when he spoke out in defense of Bibi and against blasphemy laws in 2011.

According to The Christian Post, insulting Islam or the prophet Muhammad in Pakistan is considered blasphemy and is a crime punishable by life in prison or death. And the legal system - which, in theory, should be created to protect the innocent - failed her in every way until political expediency necessitated otherwise.

The blasphemy laws remain an extremely sensitive issue in ‎the predominantly Muslim nation and they have ‎drawn intense criticism even within the country.

Bibi's case has been highly divisive in Pakistan, dividing liberal and conservatives. Business activities in the cities too have been adversely affected. She has been in jail as her case went through various phases of appeal. Similar rallies were also held in the northwestern city of Peshawar; there were no reports of violence.

The Jamaat-e-Islami, which, like Tehreek-e-Labbaik, has a very strong street presence, has asked its members to come out in Islamabad to demand that the acquittal be reversed.

Hafiz Sae, an influential Islamist whom the United States accuses of being the mastermind of attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed 166, has called for protests after Friday afternoon prayers. They, too, are under threat from the baying mobs.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan made a special address on the ruling as television channels showed the situation spiralling out of control in various cities. "They are doing their politics".

Pakistan's supreme court has not been known to reverse its decisions, but court reviews tend to take years.

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