Thousands of supporters of the Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) took to the streets of Pakistan over the weekend to demand the execution of a Christian mother facing the death penalty for allegedly committing blasphemy.
“Several thousand Islamist hard-liners protested in Lahore on October 12 against the woman, and some have threatened to kill her if she is released,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on Sunday.
“The Islamists demanded the execution of Asia Bibi be carried out, days after Pakistan’s Supreme Court heard her final appeal,” Channel News Asia noted on Friday.
Channel News Asia described the rally in Lahore as “the biggest of several in cities across Pakistan, with a few hundred protesters also demonstrating in the southern port city of Karachi, and in Rawalpindi, which neighbors Islamabad.”
In a statement, TLP, which organized the protests, reportedly warned of “terrible consequences” if Pakistan’s judicial system grant’s Bibi any leniency.
“If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences,” TLP declared.
TLP rose to prominence during the recent elections in Pakistan by campaigning on punishing blasphemy.
Early this month, Pakistan’s Supreme Court said it had made a decision in Bibi’s, but it did not reveal its judgment.
According to human rights groups, Muslims in Pakistan often use the nation’s blasphemy law to target Christians and settle personal vendettas.
In 2010, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of four, became the first woman to be sentenced to death under the law.
Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law can carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Although Pakistan has sentenced some alleged offenders to death, it has never executed a blasphemy convict. However, extremists who take the law into their own hands have killed dozens following blasphemy claims.
Other punishments for blasphemy include a fine or a prison term depending on the nature of the offense.
“At least 1,472 people were charged under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2016, according to the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice,” RFE/RL noted. “It said Muslims constituted a majority of those prosecuted, followed by members of the Ahmadi, Christian, and Hindu minorities.”
On October 8, Reuters reported:
Bibi was sentenced to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. Bibi has always denied blaspheming, and her representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbors and that her accusers had contradicted themselves.
If the supreme court upholds Bibi’s conviction, her only recourse would be a mercy petition to the country’s leader, Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has vowed to defend the country’s controversial blasphemy law.