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After nationwide protests, Pakistan bars Christian women acquitted of blasphemy from leaving the country

This ban amounts to a new death sentence for Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman who was on death row in Pakistan for years for saying to a group of Muslim women: “I’m not going to convert. I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?”

The Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi and ordered that she be freed, but after protests against this ruling broke out all over the country, Asia Bibi has been barred from leaving Pakistan. Yet within Pakistan, she can never be safe. Please keep Asia Bibi in your prayers, praying that she be safe: many people who have been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan have been lynched by mobs without ever having been tried, and her acquittal has clearly not satisfied some elements within the nation.

“Asia Bibi: Deal to end Pakistan protests over blasphemy case,” BBC, November 3, 2018:

Pakistan’s authorities have struck a deal with a hard-line Islamist party to end a protest over the acquittal of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy.

As part of the deal, proceedings will begin to bar Asia Bibi from leaving the country.

The government will also not prevent protesters legally challenging the Supreme Court decision to release her.

Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, but was acquitted earlier this week.

The ruling enraged some in the majority-Muslim country.

Hardliners who support Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been taking to the streets since Wednesday’s ruling.

Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told the BBC, “We had two options: either to use force, and when you use force people can be killed. That is not something a state should do… We tried negotiations and (in) negotiations you take something and you leave something.”

He defended the agreement against allegations the government was capitulating to extremists:

“We need to take steps against extremism, we need to take steps against such kind of violent protesters and we need to come up with a permanent solution. Right now this is not a cure. This is firefighting, what we are doing. The cure is the real thing and our government is committed to the cure.”

He clarified that the decision on whether or not to bar Asia Bibi from leaving the country would be made by a court, and added the government would “take all steps necessary” to ensure Asia Bibi’s safety.
What’s in the deal?

It was reached between the government and the Tehreek-i-Labaik (TLP) party, which led the mass protests, local media report.

Under the agreement, as well as beginning legal proceedings to put Asia Bibi on a list which would ban her from leaving Pakistan, the government will also not block a review petition filed against the verdict.

The deal also envisages that all protesters arrested since Asia Bibi’s acquittal will be released, and any violence towards them will be investigated….

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