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A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, a case that has polarised the nation.

Insulting Islam's prophet is punishable by death under Pakistani law, and blasphemy accusations stir such emotions they are nearly impossible to defend against.

Mother-of-four Asia Bibi has been on death row since 2010 when she fell foul of the country's extremist blasphemy laws.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan is set to announce much awaited judgment in Aasia Bibi case on Wednesday. Later on, in 2010, a court in district Nankana awarded her capital punishment, which was later challenged and upheld by a two-member bench of Lahore High Court in 2014. The Pakistani Supreme Court today set aside that conviction. The two Muslim women who pressed charges against Bibi denied they quarrelled with her, saying her outbursts against Islam were unprovoked.

However, on 7 October, Ashiq Masih, Bibi's husband, said his wife was "spiritually strong" and "ready and willing to die for Christ", adding that she will "never convert to Islam".

Pakistani lawyers who are contesting the case against Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, speaks to media outside the Supreme court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 31, 2018.

Bibi's case started when, according to her autobiography, she sought to get some drinking water out of a well on a hot fruit-picking day. She was convicted and sentenced to death. This verdict has incited protests nationwide, and so we can only hope the next few days pass by peacefully and without any major incident.

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No one has ever been executed in Pakistan on blasphemy charges even though dozens have been jailed or extrajudicially killed, at times, in mob lynchings.

Paramilitary troops have been deployed in Islamabad to prevent protesters from reaching the Supreme Court, where security has been stepped up up to protect the judges and authorities have also put security in place at churches around the country.

Human rights groups say Pakistan's blasphemy laws are exploited to settle personal scores. The law does not define blasphemy and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offence.

The TLP was founded out of a movement supporting a bodyguard who assassinated Lahore provincial governor Salman Taseer for advocating for Bibi in 2011.

Pope Francis told Bibi's daughter: "I think often of your mother and I pray for her".

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

Ms Asia Bibi's case drew the attention of global rights groups and swiftly became the most high-profile in the country.


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