Aasia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who was cleared by the country’s Supreme Court of blasphemy charges after spending eight years on death row, has said that she always believed she would be freed.
In an interview to the BBC on Friday, Bibi, who now lives in Canada, said she hoped she would be able to return to Pakistan one day as she recounted her suffering inside the jail and mistreatment at the hands of the prison guards.
The 47-year-old mother of four was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but spent eight years in solitary confinement.
Bibi, who was in France to promote her memoir “Enfin Libre!” (Finally Free), written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet, said that her Christian faith helped her through the ordeal.
“They said change your faith, and you’ll be freed. But I said no. I will live my sentence. With my faith,” she said.
Bibi said that she always believed she would be freed.
“I found out from my husband that the whole world was praying for me. And that even the Pope had prayed for me. That made me happy. And I found out the whole world was praying for my misery to end. That made me feel that their prayers would definitely free me,” she was quoted as saying by Britain’s public broadcaster.
Bibi called on Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to free anyone unjustly accused or convicted of blasphemy and to ensure that the charges are investigated properly.
“Innocents should not be punished for no reason and people who are innocent, in prison, should be freed. During the investigation, both parties should be questioned properly because there are a lot of problems in our investigative procedures. And it is hard to tell who is on whose side,” she said.
Despite her ordeal, Bibi said she still felt positively about Pakistan and hoped to return there one day.
“It was my country that freed me. That makes me proud. I left of my own volition because I was in danger there. Anything could have happened to me at any point. So that’s why I left my country. But I have the same love for my country in my heart now. I still respect my country and I want to see the day when I’m able to go back,” she said.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Bibi of blasphemy charges on October 31, 2018. The judgement triggered protests across Pakistan with protestors led by Islamic political party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups blocking major highways and roads in different parts of the country.
Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih in a video message had appealed to the world leaders, including the US President, and the premiers of the UK and Canada, to help his wife leave Pakistan for her safety.
The Christian community has been targeted in numerous attacks in recent years, leaving many feeling vulnerable to a climate of intolerance in the Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Bibi says in her book that the Christian community is despised and bullied and discriminated against, the report said.
Data provided by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) shows a total of 720 Muslims, 516 Ahmedis, 238 Christians and 31 Hindus have been accused under various clauses of the blasphemy law from 1987 until 2017, it said.
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