Lahore | Pakistan’s Supreme Court today stayed the execution of a minority Christian woman over blasphemy as it admitted her plea challenging the conviction, in a case that sparked international outrage over the controversial law.
A three-member panel of judges heard the case in Supreme Court’s Lahore registry and admitted Asia Bibi’s petition for full hearing after initial arguments by her defence lawyer besides staying her execution till the matter is adjudicated. Bibi, a mother of five, had a quarrel over a bowl of water with fellow Muslim women while working on a crop field in Punjab province.
She was accused of uttering blasphemous words in the heat of arguments, which she denied. Bibi was arrested in 2009 for allegedly passing the blasphemous remarks and convicted in 2010. Her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore High Court in October last year which she challenged in the Supreme Court.
No date had been set for the execution. Bibi’s death sentence had sparked outrage among international human rights groups, which condemned Pakistan’s blasphemy law as a source of persecution against religious minorities. Blasphemy laws were introduced by military rulers Zia-ul- Haq in 1980s and people accused under the laws are also targeted by extremists.
When governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer criticised these laws in a meeting with Bibi after her first conviction, he first faced immense criticism from extremists and was later killed by his police guard in 2011.
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