ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Christian community rejoiced on Wednesday at the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, who spent years on death row for blasphemy, saying their prayers had been answered after years of begging for justice.
Christians make up around two per cent of the country’s 210 million population.
Wednesday’s acquittal of the illiterate mother represented a rare victory for the community — with Christians in Islamabad hailing the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Justice has been done,” said Reverend Javed Masih, who heads a Presbyterian church in a Christian slum in the capital.
“We are happy that the law is still ruling in this country and that’s why Aasia Bibi has been set free,” added another Christian resident Shafaqat Masih.
“We are extremely happy that God has responded to our prayers. The church of Pakistan was praying for years for the release of our sister,” Reverend Masih said, adding that a special worship service was being held to celebrate Bibi’s release.
Aasia was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 on blasphemy charges.
“She was innocent and she was being discriminated [against],” said the pastor.
Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah called for “state protection” of the acquitted woman along with her family and attorney.
Pastor Masih feared unrest could be triggered by the court’s decision.
But he said his community would “pray for peace in this country”.
Shahbaz Ashiq, another resident in the neighbourhood, said he was “very proud of our Supreme Court and the decision”.
“Had she not been acquitted, we would have thought that there is no justice in this country,” added Shafaqat Masih.
“Thank God that the court has acquitted her.”
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018