After more than nine years in prison, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled on October 31st to throw out all charges against Asia Bibi, removing the death sentence against her for blasphemy.
In their ruling, the judges noted the contradictory evidence from witnesses. An alleged confession by Asia was ruled to be coerced. Announcing the verdict, Justice Nisar declared that tolerance is a basic principle of Islam, which requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. In a further opinion released with the judgement, Justice Khosa made a strong statement against the accusers: "Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant's religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party, and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of (Muhammad), was also not short of being blasphemous." To view the full English text of the judgement, along with the supporting opinion, go to this page.
Upon hearing the verdict, Asia reportedly told her lawyer, "I can't believe what I am hearing. Will I go out now? Will they let me out, really? I just don't know what to say. I am very happy; I can't believe it." Her lawyer assured her that she would be released within a day or two, after the paperwork is completed.
As anticipated, news of the verdict has brought riots throughout Pakistan. Major roads have been blocked, many schools were closed, and people were urged to stay in their homes for safety. Khadim Rizvi, leader of the militant Tehreek-e-Labaik political party, has threatened the lives of the judges and Asia's lawyer. He further promised dire consequences for government and military leaders and international organizations working within the country. Prime Minister Khan has spoken out against the protests in a national broadcast, calling those inciting violence "enemies of the state."
The general consensus believes that Asia and her family will no longer be safe in Pakistan. Several countries have offered asylum. Meanwhile, there is also concern for the safety of other Christians throughout the country in the face of the violent protests.
Praise the Lord for this wonderful answer to prayer! Thank God for raising up judges who are willing to take a stand for the truth despite personal danger. Pray for the protection of the country's Christians, government leaders, judges and others who are under threat as a result of this case. Now that the charges have been dropped, ask the Lord to guide Asia and her family to a safe haven of greatly needed rest and restoration. Also remember the estimated 40 other citizens in Pakistan who are presently on death row or serving life sentences for alleged blasphemy.