Paris, Feb 29 (IANS) Aasia Bibi, a 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.
Bibi made the remarks on Friday in an exclusive interview to the BBC during a visit to France where she is promoting her memoir, “Enfin Libre!” (Finally Free), written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet.
Bibi, who now resides in Canada following her acquittal in 2018, told the BBC 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.
“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.”
Despite her ordeal, Bibi told the BBC that she still felt positively about Pakistan and hoped to return there one day.
“It was my country that freed me. That makes me proud,” she said, while calling on Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to free anyone unjustly accused or convicted of blasphemy and to ensure that the charges were investigated properly.
“Innocents should not be punished for no reason and people who are innocent, in prison, should be freed,” Bibi told the BBC.
She was accused of insulting Prophet Mohammad during a row with her neighbours in 2009. A court sentenced her to death in 2010 under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, sparking widespread outrage from national and international human rights groups.
She was released from prison in November 2018 after being acquitted by the Supreme Court of blasphemy charges on October 31.
Her acquittal triggered widespread protests by religious hardliners in the country where blasphemy is a sensitive issue with 97 per cent of Pakistan’s 180 million inhabitants being Muslims.