"Don't Confront The State": Pak PM Warns Blasphemy Verdict Protestors

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Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Asia Bibi will no longer be facing a court-ordered execution. "Police urged demonstrators to disperse peacefully". He asked his supporters to continue sit-ins as authorities summoned paramilitary troops to restore order.

"We are ready to die to show our love for the prophet", he told an emotionally charged rally in Lahore.

Rizvi's envoys had demanded that Bibi be barred from leaving the country but Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry rejected the demand, saying the government will not accept any dictates.

On Thursday, Salam filed a petition in the apex court's Lahore registry asking for a review of the verdict by the three-judge bench. "We have deep concern over the security situation after the court verdict ... this might lead to a fearful and violent situation for Christians". But the reaction to the Supreme Court decision has been fast, and fierce- hardliners are out protesting in the streets in most major cities.

Ms Bibi, a mother of five, has been offered asylum by several countries and will most likely leave the country if released over worries about her safety. "They are in fact enemies of Islam", Mr Khan said.

Taseer had also called for Bibi's release. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, returned from Britain with their children and was waiting for her release so that they can fly out of Pakistan. The landmark ruling sparked protests by hard-line Islamists and raised fears of violence.

This month, the Supreme Court judges faced death threats from one political party of religious hard-liners, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), which warned of a "horrible" fate for the judges if they spared Bibi, AFP news service reported.

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"The law enforcement agencies, the police is responsible for the protection of the life, the security, the property of Asia Bibi, her family, her friends, her supporters, the Christian community, human rights defenders, her lawyers and most especially the judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan".

Also on Friday morning, the army's spokesperson, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, stressed that the armed forces had nothing to do with the Aasia Bibi case.

Islam is Pakistan's national religion and underpins its legal system.

Later on Friday, telephone networks were down in the capital, Islamabad, and the eastern city of Lahore, where pockets of TLP protesters blocked main roads.

In Pakistan's commercial hub Karachi, protesters burned tires and blocked roads in various parts of the city.

Mrs Bibi was arrested in 2009 following a row with Muslim women who accused her of making a water cup unclean for them because she had used it.

Bibi was condemned under an article added to the Pakistan Penal Code following independence stating: 'Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine'.

Ms Bibi's representatives have claimed she was involved in a dispute with her neighbours and her accusers had contradicted themselves.