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On Wednesday, the top court acquitted Aasia Bibi - a Christian woman accused of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death - and set aside an earlier judgment passed by a lower court.

Trumpeting Qadri as a hero was a newly formed political party, called Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), that wants Pakistan to impose strict observance of Sharia law.

One Islamic cleric closely associated with the TLP, Pir Afzal Qadri of the Aalmi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat, issued a fatwa that any judge acquitting Asia Bibi should be punished by death.

Asia Bibi, a Christian farm laborer, angered her Muslim co-workers when she took a drink of water from a cup she got for them almost a decade ago.

Bibi appeared to be in state of disbelief after hearing that Pakistan's Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had quashed her conviction almost eight years after she was first sentenced to death.

A cabinet minister of former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had to step down last November for overseeing changes to a reference to the prophet Muhammad in a lawmakers' oath after members of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, Rizvi's party, blocked a main highway to Islamabad for several weeks.

Shortly after the ruling, hundreds of Islamists blocked a key road linking the city of Rawalpindi with Islamabad.

Authorities said she is scheduled for release later this week, after which her plans are unknown.

Bibi's lawyer on Wednesday called the court ruling "great news" for Pakistan.

Ms Bibi's case has been high on the agenda of religious hardliners in Pakistan, many of whom are fiercely opposed to her release.

Pakistan suspended mobile phone networks in major cities on Friday and many schools were closed as Islamist groups protested for a third day against the acquittal of a Christian woman facing the death penalty for blasphemy.

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Though Bibi is being released, there is fear that she might be at risk of being attacked by militants.

Mr Rizvi's envoys wanted Ms Bibi barred from leaving the country, but information minister Fawad Chaudhry rejected the demand and said the government would not be dictated to.

The mere rumour of blasphemy can ignite mob violence and lynchings in Pakistan, and combating alleged blasphemy has become a central rallying cry for hardline Islamists.

TLP-linked protesters have threatened to kill Bibi and judges who acquitted her.

Those who condemned Aasia Bibi's conviction or criticized Pakistan's blasphemy law have also been killed. In many cities of Punjiab there are demonstrations and roadblocks.

Some protesters appeared unsure of the nature of Aasia Bibi's crime, but were certain that she should be put to death. Islamists gathered in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, in the northwestern city of Peshawar and elsewhere.

Bibi was accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not a Muslim.

Bibi was found guilty of blasphemy in 2010 after she got into a row with neighbours during which they insulted her Christian faith and she fired back with a swipe at Muhammad.

The case was based on flimsy evidence, they said, and proper procedures had not been followed. He would not disclose the country of Ms. Bibi's destination but both France and Spain have offered her asylum.

Critics of Pakistan's blasphemy laws have long claimed that they are open to abuse, and often used by accusers simply to settle petty scores or oppress religious minorities.


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