Pakistani Christian prisoner Asia Bibi has gained global notoriety for the infamously drawn-out blasphemy case that involved her drawing water from a Muslim-designated source. For the past nine years, she has been on death row, even as international human rights advocats and groups have fought tirelessly to have her exonerated.
Today, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was scheduled to hear Bibi’s final appeal, but decided to postpone announcing their ruling until further notice, Reuters reported.
BREAKING: Pakistan's Supreme Court has ruled on the blasphemy case of #AsiaBibi, a Catholic sentenced to death for blasphemy. The court in #Pakistan has reserved the verdict until further notice. Background: https://t.co/IsGMklocZl (CNS photo/ @epaphotos) pic.twitter.com/1GT56pG4Uq
— Barb Fraze (@bfraze) October 8, 2018
The death penalty verdict against Asia Bibi has been *reserved* until further notice. Please pray for mercy and justice. https://t.co/SuCYBKGClF
— Jeremy McLellan (@JeremyMcLellan) October 8, 2018
On Monday, Pakistani Christians issued a day of fasting and prayer for Bibi, the Catholic Herald reported. This comes after the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) sent letters to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and to President Arif Alvi, pleading for the Christian mother’s release.
Bibi’s tragic story began in June 2009, when some Muslim women who worked on the same farm accused her of uttering blasphemous statements about the prophet Mohammed, CBN News reported.
The alleged altercation happened when Bibi went to get water for herself and her fellow farmworkers. Two Muslim women refused to drink from the same container as Bibi because she was a Christian. She was then beaten by an angry mob in front of her 9-year-old daughter. Though local police stepped in to rescue Bibi, she was eventually sentenced to death after a community imam, who did not witness the incident, accused her of blasphemy.
According to Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, her only “crime” was being a devout Christian in a hostile community where non-Muslims are viewed as “unclean.” In an effort to spread awareness of his wife’s unjust imprisonment, Masih and the couple’s daughter, Eisham Ashiq, have taken many trips to England with the help of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
In an interview at St. Columba’s Church in Chester last week, Mr. Ashiq shared that his wife is doing well, considering the circumstances. He and his daughter visited Bibi in prison last Monday, where they found her in good health, and she even received Communion.
“She is psychologically, physically and spiritually strong,” Ashiq said. “Having a very strong faith, she is ready and willing to die for Christ. She will never convert to Islam.”
In the wake of the latest crushing delay in Bibi’s case, she and her husband are urging faithful believers everywhere to pray for his wife’s safe and speedy release.
“She also wanted to deliver a message to the international community that they must remember her in their prayers,” Ashiq said. “These prayers will open the door of the prison, and she will be released very soon.”
“She is spending her life praying with a very strong faith and is reading the Bible every day,” he added. “She feels when she is praying, Jesus is encouraging and supporting her.”
No Pakistani Christian has been jailed on blasphemy charges longer than Bibi. If she loses her final appeal, she could be put to death. Pakistan’s 295-C blasphemy law is based on sharia (Islamic law) which mandates execution for those found guilty of committing blasphemy against Mohammed.
Even if her appeal is successful, Bibi faces additional threats from the same community that put her behind bars nine years ago. According to the Catholic Herald, militant Muslims have placed a 500,000-rupee (around $6,500) bounty on her head. For this reason, the BPCA have asked the Pakistani authorities to allow her to leave Pakistan immediately in the event that her appeal is granted.
Reuters reported Monday that a local Islamist group has warned of the “terrible consequences” of granting Bibi leniency.
“If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences,” the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party said in a statement.
Please keep Asia Bibi and her family in your prayers as they continue to suffer for Christ’s sake.