Aasia Noreen, known as Aasia Bibi, is a Christian farmworker who was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010.
Despite being acquitted of all charges by the Supreme Court, the Pakistani government gave in to demands by a violent mob, stopping her from leaving the country and having the Supreme Court review its ruling.
Aasia Bibi, a 54-year-old, who has a family of five children, has spent the past eight years on death row while waiting for her appeal to work its way through the Pakistani court system.
Sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010, Aasia Bibi was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad after offering her fellow farm worker a glass of water who responded by saying that it was “unclean” because Aasia Bibi was a Christian. Pakistani Christians in Punjab, where Aasia Bibi is from, are subject to caste discrimination as well as religious discrimination owing to their background as former Dalits who were often considered “untouchable”.
Three years after accepting Aasia Bibi’s appeal for consideration, the Pakistan Supreme Court acquitted her of all charges on 31 October 2018, citing insufficient evidence.
After the ruling was announced, violent protests erupted in major cities in Pakistan, with violent mobs blocking roads and setting vehicles on fire. Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared on television to uphold the verdict and denounce the violence. But after two more days of protests, his government backed down.
A delegation from the government entered negotiations with leaders from the Tehreek-e-Labbayk, who led the protests, and agreed that Aasia Bibi’s name will be added to the Exit Control List and that the Supreme Court will hear a “review petition” that seeks to overturn her acquittal. With no date for the review yet having been set, Aasia Bibi remains in prison.
The life of Aasia Bibi, as well as that of her family, are in grave danger as they continue to face threats.
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