A 53-year-old Christian mother on death row in Pakistan for allegedly committing blasphemy is asking for prayers as she waits to hear whether the Supreme Court will free her or uphold the capital punishment, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported this week.
“A Christian woman’s fate hung in the balance on Thursday as Pakistan’s Supreme Court prepared to announce whether she would be executed under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws,” NBC News acknowledged Thursday.
NBC News learned from Bibi’s lawyer Saiful Malook that “a verdict on the appeal is imminent.”
Human rights group and the U.S. government have determined that Pakistan uses the country’s controversial blasphemy laws to target Christians and other religious minorities.
The law, which carries a punishment that ranges from life in prison to the death sentence, is often abused to settle vendettas, according to several news reports.
“Pakistan’s Christian community fears they will be the first target of retribution if Bibi’s life is spared. They are asking for prayer and protection,” ACLJ reported on Thursday.
Last week, Ashiq Bibi, the defendant’s husband, conveyed a message from Asia, asking for prayers for her freedom.
“She told [me] that the community must remember her in their prayers because this is an international country … [I] need international pressure for the release of Asia Bibi,” Ashiq declared, according to the U.K.-based Premier group, a pro-Christian organization.
“She always has said that Jesus is her life and she is living in the name of Jesus, and [trusting] that Jesus will help her,” he added.
In 2010, a court convicted Bibi, a mother of five, for insulting Islam’s Muhammad during an argument involving her neighbors objecting to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.
Bibi, who became the first woman to be sentenced to death under the country’s strict blasphemy law, remains on death row while appealing the case.
Islamic extremists, namely supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party that rose to prominence during the recent elections by campaigning on punishing blasphemy, have warned the Supreme Court against any “concession or softness” for Bibi, Reuters reported.
NBC News added on Thursday:
Demonstrators were out in the streets of Lahore last week demanding judges uphold the death penalty for Asia Bibi. Chanting “Hang infidel Asia,” activists from the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party also rallied in other cities Friday, threatening wider protests if she is freed.
The Islamists have threatened to kill Bibi themselves if the court refuses to uphold her death sentence.
Our legal team in Pakistan was present at the special hearing, as her attorney in Pakistan vigorously argued that her trial was fraught with errors. Even the judges have demanded that the Prosecution produce real evidence supporting the charges against Asia Bibi.
Yet Islamic extremists aren’t interested in facts or the lack of proof. Angry mobs are organizing on the streets in Pakistan, demanding her execution.
According to the U.S. State Department, there were at least 50 individuals imprisoned in Pakistan on blasphemy charges last year, including 17 sentenced to death.
Pakistan has yet to carry out a death sentence over blasphemy, Islamic extremists are known to take the law into their own hands.