Pakistan Celebrates Lack of Riots After Top Court Upholds Asia Bibi Acquittal

Pakistan blasphemy Christian still in jail one week on
AFP/AAMIR QURESHI

Pakistani politicians on Thursday commemorated as a “milestone” the absence of riots demanding the death of all involved in the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the acquittal of Christian mother Asia Bibi’s 2010 death sentence for blasphemy.

On Wednesday, Pakistani authorities announced the arrest of over 90 members of Islamic extremist parties, mainly the anti-blasphemy Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), to prevent a repeat of the full-scale, nationwide riots in the wake of the country’s Supreme Court decision to rescind Bibi’s blasphemy charges on October 31.

Pakistani lawmaker Kanwal Shauzab from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) attributed the lack of protests “to improved management and social media monitoring” and the recent arrests, Dawn notes.

On Thursday, she reportedly declared:

Everyone knows what happened three months back [when Aasia Bibi was first acquitted by the Supreme Court]. But after that, monitoring of social media was increased and hate speech was topped. Immediate action was taken against those who were inciting people.

Acknowledging the Bibi case had “radicalized and polarized” the Pakistani public, she said it would take time to heal those societal wounds completely, adding:

However, I suggest that people should not forward provocative messages on social media and also discourage such messaging. As Aasia has been acquitted, we should look into where we went wrong.

Pakistani lawmaker Mehnaz Akbar Aziz from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) opposition also described Bibi’s acquittal as “milestone for Pakistan,” Dawn notes.

The controversial blasphemy law in Pakistan — disproportionately used to target Christians and other religious minorities — is a crime in Pakistan punishable by life imprisonment or death depending on the perceived severity of the offense.

TLP orchestrated riots across Pakistan soon after the Supreme Court acquitted Bibi, a mother of five who spent nearly a decade on death row before authorities cleared her of any wrongdoing.

TLP-linked Islamists threatened to kill Bibi, her lawyer, and the Supreme Court judges, prompting Pakistani authorities to move the Christian mother to an undisclosed location, fearing for her safety.

In early November, the Pakistani government reached a deal with TLP to prevent Bibi from leaving the country while the Supreme Court deals with petitions to review its acquittal of the Christian mother of five.

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court dismissed a final petition to appeal the liberation of Bibi, effectively setting the Christian mother free.

According to Dawn, this week’s arrests came after hard-line religious parties, namely the anti-blasphemy TLP, urged their followers and supporters to hold protests against the Supreme Court’s decision to clear Bibi.

Several human rights groups have found that Muslims often use the law to settle personal disputes and vendettas.

Although Pakistan has yet to execute anyone over blasphemy charges, many Islamic extremists in the country have taken their lethal version of justice into their own hands.

Some news outlets suggest Bibi has left Pakistan and joined her daughters in Canada.

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