Death sentence against Asia Bibi reversed

Asia Bibi Pakistan death rowThe Christian Pakistani, Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death over a cup of water. From death row. Photo: Private

The death sentence against Asia Bibi reversed in Pakistan

Islamists in Pakistan are raging after the Pakistani Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted a Christian woman who, in 2010, was sentenced to death for blasphemy. MP for the Liberals, Abid Q. Raja wishes for Asia Bibi to come to Norway.


The Christian mother of four, Asia Bibi, was arrested in 2009 following a dispute with Muslim women over a cup of water and sentenced to death by the Court the following year for offending the prophet Muhammad. The case attracted attention from international human rights groups and quickly became the most profound of the many blasphemy cases in Pakistan. Pakistan is theoretically a secular state but has very strict blasphemy laws.

The Roman-Catholic Pope, Benedict, in 2010 in futility begged for the release of Asia Bibi. The then Leader of the Norwegian Christian Democrats, Dagfinn Høybråten, and Norway’s ambassador to Pakistan, Robert Kvile, were involved in the matter. In 2015, a daughter of Asia Bibi met with Benedict’s successor, the current Pope, Frans.

Protests expected

Now the Supreme Court in Pakistan has reached a verdict – that the sentenced woman is not to be executed.

– The appeal is upheld. She has been acquitted, the verdict of the Supreme Court and the trial has been reversed. The verdict against her is set aside, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar states in the decision of the Supreme Court.

The decision is expected to be met with much resistance, especially from Islamists who have demanded that Bibi is to be executed. They have already announced demonstrations all across Pakistan if there is an acquittal in the case.


In 2011, the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was shot dead by his own bodyguard, Hussain Qadri. Taseer fought to change Pakistan’s medieval blasphemy law. A local minority minister was also assassinated in 2011 for publicly supporting Asia Bibi.

The charges against Bibi, who is a Christian, derive from an incident when she worked in a field together with several others and was asked to fetch water. Muslim women on-site allegedly said that she should not have fetched water because, as a non-Muslim, she was not fit to touch the water containers and made the water unclean. Bibi allegedly retorted that Jesus died on the cross for her and asked the women what their Prophet had done for mankind. She was then attacked by the women and later arrested.

Abid Raja wish for Bibi to come to Norway

– I’m afraid she can be killed in Pakistan if she does not get adequate protection. I want her to receive protection or asylum in another country. Perhaps Norway could open its heart for this Christian woman, who is sentenced to death, says the Member of Parliament.

– The case is a nasty and shameful blemish on Pakistan. Asia Bibi is at long last released. Gross injustice has been dealt her, and her family, for 9 years, Raja continues.

He has fronted her case many times, in Norway, with the Pakistani authorities and in international forums.

– I am both relieved and happy on her behalf, but fear she may be exposed to nasty lawless reactions. Pakistani authorities must ensure her safety henceforth, he concludes.

Blasphemy, a memoir

In June 2009 a Pakistani mother of five, Asia Bibi, was out picking fruit in the fields. At midday, she went to the nearest well, picked up a cup, and took a drink of cool water, and then offered it to another woman. Suddenly, one of her fellow workers cried out that the water belonged to Muslim women and that Bibi—who is Christian—had contaminated it. “Blasphemy!” someone shouted, a crime punishable by death in Pakistan. In that instant, with one word, Bibi’s fate was sealed. First attacked by a mob, Bibi was then thrown into prison and sentenced to be hanged.

Since that day, Asia Bibi has been held in appalling conditions, her family members have had to flee their village under threat from vengeful extremists, and the two brave public figures who came to Bibi’s defense—the Muslim governor of the Punjab and Pakistan’s Christian Minister for Minorities—have been brutally murdered. In Blasphemy, Asia Bibi, who has become a symbol for everyone concerned with ending an unjust law that allows people to settle personal scores and that kills Christians and Muslims alike indiscriminately, bravely tells her shocking and inspiring story and makes the last cry for help from her prison cell on death row.


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