Christians given hope by Pakistan Supreme Court ruling against blasphemy

Protesters hold up placards condemning Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws.Reuters

Embattled Christians in Pakistan now have a glimmer of hope after the country's Supreme Court stepped in to ask politicians to review the use of the blasphemy laws.

The Supreme Court has urged the government to conduct a major review of people who are in prison charged with blasphemy.

The blasphemy laws have been widely used to attack people of minority faiths – especially Christians. There have been numerous cases of minor disputes which have led to accusations of blasphemy because one of the parties is a Christian.

Now, the Supreme Court says politicians should ensure that those who are currently in prison facing charges aren't there under false pretences.

The ruling from the court says, "It is, therefore, for the State of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to ensure that no innocent person is compelled or constrained to face an investigation or a trial on the basis of false or trumped-up allegations regarding commission of such an offence."

The penalties for being convicted of blasphemy can be severe – beginning with fines but at their most extreme the death penalty can be given.

The case of Asia Bibi has been one of the most high-profile to have brought attention to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

Bibi, a Christian, has been on death row for over five years after being charged with blasphemy – she was supposed to have insulted the Prophet Mohammed – but insists she is the victim of a personal vendetta from her accuser. She is due to appeal but has already lost years of her life in prison and reports suggest her health is suffering.

Christians in Pakistan are a small but committed minority with around two million believers, which makes up less than two per cent of the total population.

Around 500 protesters took to the streets in Peshawar to demonstrate against the Court's ruling.