Asia Bibi
In this photograph, Ashiq Masih, husband of Asia Bibi points to a poster bearing an image of his wife at a living area in Lahore, Pakistan, Sept. 27, 2016. Getty Images/ ARIF ALI

A Pakistani court Tuesday granted bail to the leader of a religious group who led massive protests in the country against the acquittal of Asia Bibi, who had spent eight years on death row on blasphemy charges until the country's Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned her conviction.

Bibi, a Christian who was working in a farm, was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after two of her co-workers accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party was charged with terrorism, sedition and inciting violence after his supporters caused a major shutdown and blockade in Pakistan against the acquittal of the woman. Following his arrest in November, 2018, his supporters and police clashed on the streets, leading to deterioration of law and order situation in the eastern city of Lahore.

The injustice meted out to Bibi received the attention of the international community and human rights activists, who raised voices against her ordeal.

Bibi left the country last week after living in an undisclosed location inside Pakistan as Islamic hardliners demanded that she be killed for blasphemy. She joined her family members in Canada after leaving Pakistan.

Rizvi’s TLP created panic in the country by calling for mutiny in the armed forces. They also demanded assassination of Pakistan’s top judges for acquitting Bibi.

The Pakistani government resolved the crisis by striking a deal with the TLP, which allowed another review of the controversial case. But finally the government was forced to take a tough stand when TLP announced another protest. The authorities took Rizvi and other leaders into custody.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested hardliners to respect the rule of law. In a deeply religiously society like Pakistan, blasphemy laws create fear among the minorities, allege human rights activists of the country.

Such laws have been misused by people against minorities and other vulnerable sections, said Pakistani human rights lawyer Sarah Suhail. The governor of the province of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was killed by his body guard in 2011 for criticizing Bibi's death sentence. TLP was formed out of a movement which supported Taseer’s body guard. The outfit received enormous support in Pakistan after joining mainstream politics.