Asia Bibi’s husband and daughter have today described news of her acquittal as the “most wonderful moment” of their lives – and thanked God for answering their prayers.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court this morning overturned the death sentence hanging over the Catholic labourer from Punjab who in 2010 became the first woman in the country condemned to death for blasphemy.
Speaking within a few minutes of the announcement today, Asia Bibi’s daughter, Eisham Ashiq, 18, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “I am so happy. I want to thank God.”
And, speaking through an interpreter, she told the charity for persecuted Christians: “This is the most wonderful moment. I can’t wait to hug my mother and then celebrate with my family. I am grateful to God for listening to our prayers.”
Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, said: “We are very happy. This is wonderful news.
“We thank God very much that he’s heard our prayers – and the prayers of so many people who have longed for Asia Bibi’s release over all these years of suffering and anguish.”
Close family friend Joseph Nadeem said that on hearing the news the family immediately “danced for joy”. He added: “There were many tears – tears of indescribable joy.”
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said: “Today is like the dawn of new hope for oppressed minorities.”
Saluting the courage of the judges in acquitting Asia Bibi in the face of fierce opposition from Islamist protestors, he added: “It is important that justice is not just seen to be done but is done.”
And Fr Emmanuel Yousaf, National Director of Pakistan’s Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, which supports people accused of blasphemy with support from organisations including ACN, said: “I am glad that justice has finally been served.
“In the current developing situation and protests by extremist groups, May Our Lord bless and protect Asia and her family and keep all our Christian brothers and sisters safe here in Pakistan.”
The Supreme Court’s decision today overturns the 2010 sentence Asia Bibi received for insulting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, a crime punishable by death according to Article 295C of Pakistan’s Penal code – part of the so-called Blasphemy Laws.
The charge was brought against her following an altercation with Muslim co-workers who said that, as a Christian, she had contaminated a common water cup by drinking from it.
Throughout, Asia Bibi has protested her innocence and on 8th October the case had its final hearing at Pakistan’s Supreme Court in the capital, Islamabad.
At the time of the hearing, Asia’s daughter, Eisham, and husband, Ashiq, were in the UK as guests of Aid to the Church in Need, raising awareness of the case.
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Picture: Ashiq Masih and daughter Eisham Ashiq. (CNS photo/Simon Caldwell).