Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death four years ago after allegedly blaspheming the prophet Muhammad during a discussion with Muslim neighbours. Before Asia, many people had been sentenced to death by courts for blasphemy under the Penal Code or "butchered publicly by people taking the law into their own hands".
The blasphemy laws in Pakistan are widely criticized. What constitutes a blasphemy is often flawed by lack of evidence. Moreover, the right to a fair trial is sometimes jeopardized since the defendant does not always know what are the charges against him/her. Indeed, an accuser may refuse to repeat the blasphemous statement. Finally, critics say that minorities are dramatically targeted by these blasphemy laws.
After Asia Bibi's appeal against her conviction was overturned by the High Court in October 2014, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan stated: “Pakistan is in a difficult situation because the blasphemy law and the manner in which it is implemented have not been subjected to due scrutiny. While we continue to expect that the judiciary of Pakistan will not fail the hopes for justice of a poor woman, the essential task lies with the lawmakers and ulema. For if they do not realise the impact that this law is having on the thinking of the people and in fuelling intolerance in Pakistan we will face even greater difficulties."
Asia Bibi has taken her case to the Supreme Court.
In November 2014, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Pakistan blasphemy laws and called "on the Government of Pakistan to carry out a thorough review of the blasphemy laws and their current application, in particular Sections 295 B and C of the Penal Code, which prescribe mandatory life sentences (295 B and C) or even the death penalty (295 C) for alleged acts of blasphemy, with a view to repealing the laws; calls on the Government of Pakistan to abolish the death penalty, including for blasphemy or apostasy, and to put in place safeguards to prevent abuse of legal provisions on blasphemy or apostasy".