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"Pakistan was the second state that was created in the name of Islam and its law is based on the Islamic law", Imran Khan said, adding that the Supreme Court (SC) followed that law in their verdict of Asia Bibi case. Her legal team fought a tough legal battle ever since.

She described her thoughts at the announcement to a reporter over the phone: "I can't believe what I am hearing: will I go out now?"

The top court's verdict in Aasia Bibi case has sparked protests in different parts of the country.

Those killed include a provincial governor and a federal minister who stood up for Bibi when she was first accused in 2009. Bibi was harvesting berries with other farmworkers when she was asked to get water from a well.

The Supreme Court acquitted Bibi on charges of making "derogatory remarks" about the Muslim prophet Muhammad, ruling that the evidence against her appeared fabricated and insufficient. The Christian woman sealed her fate when she shot back, "What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?" She has been imprisoned ever since.

Thus, Asia Bibi is not just another blasphemy convict in a deeply religious state, she has given a face to the evergoing tussle between religious fanaticism and freedom of thought. Taseer's killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was hanged in 2016 for the murder.

Supporters of Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik (TLP) immediately condemned Wednesday's ruling and blocked roads in major cities, pelting police with stones in the eastern city of Lahore. In addition to the demonstrations in the nation's capital, there was also unrest in numerous other cities, such as Karachi and Lahore.

The surprise ruling is likely to intensify months of intermittent conflict between the anti-blasphemy movement and civilian authorities, who were forced to back down late previous year when the group staged a weeks-long protest that blocked the major highway between Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi.

Paramilitary security forces had been deployed across Islamabad in anticipation of protests, which began breaking out once the ruling was handed down Wednesday morning, multiple news outlets reported.

With a riot-like situation slowly building in Pakistan after the Asia verdict, it might prove to be challenging for the Imran Khan government who had validated the blasphemy laws during his election campaign. The alarming answer is quite evident from the widespread nationwide protests that have already surfaced in Pakistan within minutes of the historic judgement by Pak Supreme Court which ordered her release and revoked her death sentence.

Those found guilty of blasphemy in Pakistan often fall victim to extrajudicial killings by Islamic zealots before the death penalty can be administered. "Coutts:-Pakistan-Christians-living-witnesses-of-faith-and-salvation-for-all-45076.html" target="_blank">spoke with AsiaNews about how hard it would be to change Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, who headed a special three-judge bench set up for the appeal, cited the Koran in the ruling, writing that "tolerance is the basic principle of Islam" and noting the religion condemns injustice and oppression.