Asia Bibi’s escape from Pakistan death row
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has attacked hardliners and appealed for calm after the acquittal of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy.
In a televised broadcast, Mr Khan said hardliners were “inciting [people] for their own political gain”, claiming they are “doing no service to Islam”.
The landmark Asia Bibi case has already set off violent protests by hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws.
Her lawyer has told the BBC she would need to move to abroad for her safety.
Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with neighbours.
She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.
Wednesday’s verdict by the Supreme Court triggered demonstrations in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan. Clashes with police have been reported.
The Red Zone in the capital Islamabad, where the Supreme Court is located, has been sealed off by police.
Demonstrations have been held in several cities including Peshawar
Late on Wednesday, Mr Kahn said: “Which government can function like this, blackmailed by protests?…
“And who suffers due to this? Our Pakistanis. The common people, the poor. You block the roads, you rob people’s livelihood…
“This is not the service of Islam, this is enmity with the country. Only anti-state elements talk like this, that kill the judges, start a revolt in army… They are only trying to beef up their vote bank.”