Pakistan’s Supreme Court has upheld its decision to acquit Pakistani Christian mother Asia Bibi—clearing the way for the 47-year-old woman to now leave her home country where she spent eight years in a prison on death row.
On October 31, 2018, the Court overturned Asia's 2010 blasphemy conviction and death sentence. Outraged by the acquittal, Islamic extremists filed a petition to challenge the court’s decision and staged violent protests, calling for her death.
“Based on merit, this hardliner's petition is dismissed,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in court on Tuesday.
Asia—also known as Asia Noreen—was unable to leave Pakistan while an appeal request was pending. In November under protective custody, she left the women’s prison and was flown to Islamabad to an undisclosed location for her safety, authorities said.
She is now free to leave her home country. Reportedly, she is expected to join her daughters in Canada where they were granted political asylum.
‘A Much Loved and Prayed for Woman’
Christians in Pakistan (3.9 million out of 200 million) have fervently prayed for a positive outcome. This decision sends a powerful message.
“Aasiya Bibi is a much loved and prayed for woman” says an Open Doors’ partner in Pakistan. “What happens to her impacts the whole Christian community.”
Asia was arrested in 2009 after being accused of insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed and was sentenced to death the following year. Despite lack of evidence and contradictions in witness testimonies, the court cases and appeals dragged on. Finally in 2018, the Supreme Court acquitted her in the landmark decision.
Massive and violent protests organized by the TLP—an Islamic political party founded to “protect” the blasphemy laws—shut down the country until the Supreme Court promised to review its earlier ruling. Infuriated militants even called for the deaths of the Supreme Court judges. Pakistan is No. 5 on the 2019 World Watch List.
Praying With Asia Bibi and the Church in Pakistan
- Pray for Asia’s continued protection and safety, her family and others around her as she makes her way out of Pakistan and to her family.
- Pray for Asia and her family as they begin to rebuild a new life together. Ask God to place people in their lives who will nurture and protect them and get them the help they need.
- Pray that they will be strong witnesses for the gospel to the people they encounter.
- Pray for peace in Pakistan. Ask God to intervene against plans for any violent protests and attacks on Christians and churches.
- Asia’s lawyer Saif-ul-Malook, who sought refuge in The Netherlands after the violence erupted in Pakistan in November, returned to Pakistan to defend Asia. Because he returned, he loses his asylum status. Pray for his protection.
- Pray for the protection and safety of the Supreme Court judges.
- Pray that this landmark ruling will compel courts to review blasphemy cases with increasing discernment and courage to overturn arrests and convictions.
- Pray for Christians convicted of blasphemy awaiting trial and imprisoned in Pakistan and throughout the world.