Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row

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Spokesman Asif Ghafoor said the armed forces' tolerance had been pushed after hardliners called for a mutiny against its top brass earlier this week in response to the Supreme Court's dismissal of blasphemy charges against Asia Bibi - ending her eight year ordeal on death row.

He also called for the ouster of the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and for army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who he said "should be sacked from the army".

The BBC reports that Muhammad Afzal Qadri, leader of the radical Tehreek-i-Labaik party, has said the three judges who delivered the decision "deserve to be killed".

Bibi was arrested in 2009 after she was accused of blasphemy following a quarrel with two fellow female farm workers who refused to drink from a water container used by a Christian.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the conviction of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy.

Since Wednesday's verdict, the TLP has been holding sit-ins in cities across the country with supporters blocking major traffic thoroughfares, causing gridlock and school closures in key hubs like Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi.

If Salman Taseer were around today, he would be happy with this week's decision acquitting Asia Bibi, but anxious that she is still far from safe like others members of her community.

Asia Bibi's lawyer, closely flanked by a policeman, told the BBC that he was "happy" with the verdict, but also afraid for his and his client's safety.

Ms Bibi's family and her lawyer say she never insulted the prophet.

Dozens of Pakistanis - including many minority Christians or members of the Ahmadi faith - have been sentenced to death for blasphemy in the past decade, though no one has actually been executed. She was tried in a court and sentenced to death.

She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy.

FILE - In this November 20, 2010, file photo, Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman, listens to officials at a prison in Sheikhupura near Lahore. Not only in Muslim-majority nations with stiff blasphemy laws, but also in supposedly enlightened Europe. The critical point about the Bibi case is that she was convicted on hearsay, and this is all it takes for lives to be destroyed.

Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.

Groups of about 200 protesters from TLP sat under large tents, listening to speeches on two blocked roads in Karachi, a Reuters witness said.

The assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, has been celebrated as a martyr by hardliners since he was hanged for the killing, with hundreds visiting a shrine set up for him near the capital, Islamabad, every day. But they said prosecutors had failed to prove that Bibi violated the law.

Bibi remained at an undisclosed location on Thursday where the 54-year-old mother of five was being held for security reasons, awaiting her formal release, her brother, James Masih told AP.

She has been offered asylum by several countries and many expect her and her family to leave Pakistan.

Asia Bibi, who was born in 1971 and has four children, was the first woman to be sentenced to death under the laws.

A month after Taseer was killed, Pakistan's religious minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who spoke out against the blasphemy law, was shot dead in Islamabad.