23:12 GMT14 April 2021
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    Pakistan's courts have come under fire since the notorious case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who barely escaped a death sentence over accusations of blasphemy. She was accused of defiling a Muslim well by drinking water from it.

    Recently disclosed UK Foreign Office documents suggest that the British government poured some £10.39 million ($13.13 million) into Pakistani civil courts since 2016 as a part of a campaign to support the rule of law in the country. These courts issued 59 death sentences over the same period of time as they were funded by the UK, with up to 92% of death penalty cases later being overturned by the country's supreme court, The Guardian reported, citing the Reprieve legal charity.

    The British government refused to disclose all the facts behind the assessment for upholding human rights in Pakistan as a result of the Foreign Office's aid programme, following a request by UK lawmakers. A Foreign Office spokesman has stated that the ministry's programmes "supported the reform of the criminal justice system" in Pakistan.

    "All our programmes have robust measures in place to protect the human rights of beneficiaries", the statement said.

    At the same time, Pakistan's legislature allows the use of capital punishment for a wide array of crimes, including terrorism. The broad definition of the latter in Pakistani laws earlier drew criticism from the UN Human Rights Committee.

    In one of the most recent cases, the Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted Pakistani Christian woman Aasiya Noreen, mostly known as Asia Bibi, who was earlier sentenced to death by a lower court. Her case drew widespread public attention because she was convicted to such harsh punishment over drinking from a Muslim well and allegedly insulting Islam and its followers.

    READ MORE: Catholic UK MPs Angry at No Asylum Offer for Christian Woman Held in Pakistan

    Following the acquittal, Asia Bibi applied for UK asylum to escape "revenge" from the locals, who were infuriated by the court's ruling, but London denied it on the grounds that her presence in the country might stir unrest among "certain sections of the population".


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    capital punishment, funding, death penalty, Foreign Office, Asia Bibi, United Kingdom, Pakistan
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