Full text of Supreme Court’s judgement in Aasia Bibi case

Asia Bibi a Christian woman accused of blasphemy in June 2009 and sentenced to death a year later. ─ Reuters  File

"Asia had been accused of speaking disparagingly about the prophet but her real crime was that she offered water to Muslim co-workers who believed Asia had made the water ceremonially unclean by drinking from the same cup". Politicians who spoke out in her support were assassinated and the case drew fresh scrutiny of Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws. Soon after, protests erupted across multiple cities on the call of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, a religio-political party headed by Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

'We are grateful to the judges for giving us justice.

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

The party also demanded Prime Minister Imran Khan's government be ousted following the court's order. Mere calls to reform the law have provoked violence, most notably the assassination of Mr Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's most populous province Punjab, by his own bodyguard in broad daylight in Islamabad in 2011.

Following the decision, a hardline Islamist party called for the death of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the two other judges who overturned the death sentence. "Asia Bibi has finally been served justice".

The party has launched street protests blocking roads in major cities to condemn the ruling, which was welcomed by human rights advocates. Some schools in Islamabad sent students home early and long lines of cars formed at fuel stations as residents anxious about prolonged protests. Seven people were killed and more than 200 wounded in clashes with the police and TLP's supporters only dispersed after striking a deal with the military.

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Insulting Islam's prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions they are nearly impossible to defend against.

No one has ever been executed in Pakistan on blasphemy charges even though dozens have been jailed or extrajudicially killed, at times, in mob lynchings.

Rights groups say the blasphemy law has been used to settle scores and to persecute religious minorities, and have pressed for stricter punishments for false accusations.

Pakistan's 295-C blasphemy law is based on sharia (Islamic law) which mandates execution for those found guilty of committing blasphemy against Mohammed. The incident led to allegations that she had blasphemed the Prophet Muhammad.

The group's emir for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said: "The goal of this protest is to raise awareness that if any such judgment is delivered in this sensitive case that grants concessions to the blasphemer Asia, then we will protest all over the country".

"Clearly she will need asylum in a western country where she can live out the remainder of her days in peace", Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christians Association, told CBN News.

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