In a much-anticipated decision, Pakistan's top court has rejected a challenge to the acquittal of a Christian woman on blasphemy charges. The ruling is the final legal option, allowing Asia Bibi to freely leave the country.
Originally convicted in 2010 after accusations of insulting Mohammed, Asia spent eight years on death row. The case has polarized the country, and government leaders who provided their support have been killed. The Supreme Court threw out all charges against the accused believer on October 31st, at which time she was taken into protective custody due to threats against her life. Although a final appeal was filed, the Supreme Court ruled on January 29th that the petitioners gave no evidence that the original acquittal was wrong. In fact, the Chief Justice stated that, if the case had not been so sensitive, her accusers would be guilty of perjury and should be jailed for life.
Asia's safety remains a priority. While she has been freed, calls for her death by militants continue. Believing it was not safe in Pakistan, Asia's lawyer and daughters have left the country after the October 31st ruling. Asia intends to likewise leave Pakistan for her safety. Despite much speculation, her intended destination has not been made public. Canada's foreign ministry representatives, who have been offering support throughout Asia's ordeal, say that her safety is top priority. They are also calling on Pakistan's government to take necessary steps to provide protection. In a statement, the department announced, "Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, and must be fully respected."
In separate ruling, a lower court has ruled to acquit Pervaiz Masih on blasphemy charges over a business disagreement (see this report). Normally blasphemy cases are passed along to higher courts. However, on January 19th, a lower court judge accepted the application for acquittal, though allowing the complainants to re-open the case in the future.
While rejoicing over this ruling, Pervaiz is still considered a blasphemer, leaving his life at risk from vigilantes. Since the initial accusation in 2015, his family has also suffered greatly. The accused man's wife Zareena was severely beaten under interrogation by police, leaving her unable to walk or stand properly. Since she was physically unable to properly watch their young daughter, the couple's three-year-old child wandered away and was later found drowned. The exact cause of the tragic drowning remains a mystery.
At the time of this report, there are 218 other Christians currently facing blasphemy charges.
While grateful for these encouraging court rulings, the tragic loss of the Masih family's young child is yet another reason to continue upholding these suffering believers in prayer. May God's comforting presence sustain the young couple as they grieve over their loss, assuring them that their little girl is eternally secure in the loving arms of Jesus. Also continue to pray for Asia and her family, asking the Lord to lead them to a safe place where they can begin a new life reunited together without constant threats. Additionally, intercede on behalf of the Pakistani government, that they will abandon their blasphemy laws, allowing freedom of religion for all of their citizens.