Pakistan court stalls pardon moves for Christian mother
A Pakistani court on Monday prevented the government from granting a swift pardon to a Christian mother sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed, a lawyer said.
Lawyers petitioned the top court in Punjab province not to allow President Asif Ali Zardari to pardon Asia Bibi while her case was pending in the courts.
Pope Benedict XVI has called for her release and political pressure has been growing for a pardon, but conservative Muslims have threatened anarchy if the government grants clemency.
She was sentenced on 8 November to hang under blasphemy laws that rights activists say encourage Islamist extremism.
Bibi can be executed only if the Lahore high court upholds her sentence on appeal. No date has yet been set for the appeal hearing.
Bibi was arrested in June 2009 after Muslim women claimed that she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. Bibi was set upon by a mob, arrested by police and sentenced on 8 November .
Prosecutors say that the 45-year-old agricultural labourer insulted the Prophet Mohammed after she got into a heated argument with Muslim coworkers who refused to drink from a bucket of water she had touched.
Rights activists and pressure groups say it is the first time that a woman has been sentenced to hang in Pakistan for blasphemy.