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The release of Bibi was apparently delayed Friday after talks failed between the government and radical Islamists who want her publicly hanged.

"We are very happy".

According to the NCJP national director, God has listened to her prayers and the prayers of all of us, including those of the good-hearted Muslim brothers and sisters who believe in justice.

But a three-judge panel set up to hear the appeal, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, ruled the evidence was insufficient.

Ashiq Mesih (R) and Eisham Ashiq, the husband and daughter of Asia Bibi, speak during an interview with AFP in London on October 12, 2018.

The leader of the Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) party also called for the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government over the case.

In 2009, Bibi was getting water from a well when a Muslim woman declared that both the water and the vessels used to obtain it were now "haram", an Islamic term for things deemed religiously "forbidden" or "unclean".

Asia Bibi was due to be freed eight years after getting the shock sentence for blasphemy when the Christian drank from a cup of water before passing it to two Muslim fruit-pickers.

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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When the 43-year-old driver, also identified by his last name, Ran, refused, Liu hit him over he head with her cell phone. The female passenger started quarrelling with the driver after she missed her stop, according to Wanzhou district police.

The courageous former Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own bodyguard in 2011 for criticizing the blasphemy laws in general, saying they are used to punish "the poor and defenceless", and for filing a mercy petition specifically for Asia Bibi. As the BBC noted, "The killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was executed, but has become a cult hero with a large shrine dedicated to him on the outskirts of Islamabad".

Ahead of the verdict, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a hardline cleric who has brought tens of thousands of people into the streets for past rallies, called on his supporters to gather in all major cities to express their love for the prophet and to protest if Bibi was released. "This decision gives us hope that Pakistan will take additional steps to increase freedom of religion and human rights in the country".

Shortly after the ruling, hundreds of Islamists blocked a key road linking the city of Rawalpindi with Islamabad. Similar rallies were held elsewhere.

Seven people were killed and more than 200 were wounded in clashes with the police, and TLP's supporters only dispersed after striking a deal with the military. In many cities of Punjiab there are demonstrations and roadblocks.

Amid the backlash after the historic judgment, security forces were deployed outside churches to protect the country's minority Christian community and the three SC judges who pronounced the judgment in the case are also being offered protection from an attack by religious hardliners.

While this is a day of victory and celebration for Asia Bibi, her family, and all those who have relentlessly prayed for her, Asia and Christians in Pakistan need continued prayers. Bibi and her family were the only Christians in the area and had faced pressure to convert to Islam.

Another Islamist group, the Millie Yakjehti Council, is also meeting on Thursday to discuss Bibi's case and may launch protests. Afridi said they will get the routes blocked by protesters reopened "through wisdom", for which all institutions were in coordination with each other.

Authorities also stepped up security near an undisclosed detention facility where Bibi is being held for her safety.


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