File photo of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan. Photograph:( Reuters )
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan backed Supreme Court acquitting Asia Bibi in the blasphemy case as he addressed the country on Wednesday. He also warned the agitators and called for calm after protests erupted in Pakistan following the verdict.
A three-judge bench had acquitted and ordered the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was earlier sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.
Imran Khan in his address said: "I'm here only because a Supreme Court verdict was announced today and the way a small section reacted to it and the language that they used...I'm forced to address you," local media quoted him as saying.
He then upheld the top court's verdict, saying that the decision of the judges was according to the constitution and "Pakistan's constitution according to the teachings of Islam."
He added that the revolt against the chief justice and army chief was "unacceptable".
"Saying that the judges of the Supreme Court are 'Wajib ul Qatl' (Worthy of death) and terming the army chief as 'non-Muslim', and calling for a revolt against the chief justice and army chief...This is unacceptable," Geo TV quoted the Pakistan prime minister as saying.
Demonstrators had gathered in Lahore today to protest against Pakistan's Supreme Court decision to free a Christian woman from death sentence for blasphemy against Islam and overturned her conviction.
Supporters of Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP), which was founded to support blasphemy laws, immediately condemned the ruling and blocked roads in major cities and pelted police with stones in the eastern city of Lahore.
TLP co-founder Muhammad Afzal Qadri said during the protest in Lahore that it would be difficult for the three judges on the panel to leave their homes or go to their offices as "by tonight the entire country will be sealed."
He also called for the ouster of the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and for army officers to rise up against powerful military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Asia Bibi, a mother of four, had been living on death row since 2010 when she became the first woman to be sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which critics say are too harsh and often misused.
She was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours allegedly objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.
(With inputs from Reuters)