News of the acquittal of Christian mother Asia Bibi has been greeted as a major success and a "new dawn" by persecution watchdog groups after a nearly decade-long saga.
Fears of religious hatred and violence in revenge attacks were echoed by several groups, who noted that hardliners in Pakistan are protesting and vowing retribution over the Pakistan Supreme Court deciding to free Bibi.
The Christian mother of five was arrested back in 2009 after she was accused by Muslim coworkers of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, something which she denied. In 2010 she was sentenced to death for blasphemy, and had been on death row ever since, sparking years-long campaigns by human rights advocates.
Bibi's family has thanked God for her release after years of uncertainty, but realizations are that she and other Christian minorities in Pakistan are in immediate danger.
Here are 6 reactions to Bibi's release by watchdog groups, a number of them have been engaged in her appeals process:
1. The American Center for Law and Justice
The American Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said that the law group's team was present in the courtroom in Lahore when the verdict was read.
"For more than four years, the ACLJ has relentlessly fought for Asia Bibi's freedom, engaging in a multi-pronged legal advocacy campaign across the globe. We've worked through our office on the ground in Pakistan," the law group noted.
"We've presented Asia Bibi's plight to the U.N. to urge intervention. We've sent legal letters directly to Pakistan, demanding her immediate release. We are thankful to the more than 800,000 people around the world who have signed our petition for her freedom. Today, Asia Bibi is now a free woman."
Sekulow pointed out that the Christian mother of five is still in danger, however.
"Islamabad, the seat of the highest court in Pakistan, was on high security alert today. Rangers were deployed around the court and other parts of the capital. And there are reports of mobs in the streets burning tires over the court's decision to release her," he warned.
"While this is a day of victory and celebration for Asia Bibi, her family, and all those who have relentlessly prayed for her, Asia and Christians in Pakistan need continued prayers. Today's verdict will not make many in Pakistan happy. The death threats that have been issued against Asia and the justices should be taken seriously."
2. Open Doors USA
Open Doors USA, which praised the news of Bibi's acquittal as it was announced, also warned that Christians are facing heightened dangers.
"This is a highly tense and threatening situation for the religious minorities, especially for Pakistani Christians and there is fear of persecution of Christians and attack on their Churches and other properties," an Open Doors partner revealed.
"Therefore, we call upon the Government of Pakistan and the Supreme Court to take notice of the threat call made by Khadim Rizvi and his Group before the announcement of Asia Bibi verdict," the source added.
"We also call upon to ban Tehreek Labek Pakistan and all similar Extremist Groups who are involved in hate speech and use religion as a tool to promote violence in the society. We also call upon the Government and law enforcement agencies to beef up the security and ensure the deployment of military troops to safeguard the lives and property of religious minorities, especially the Christians and Churches."
The watchdog groups ranks Pakistan as the No. 5 most dangerous country in the world for Christians on its World Watch List.
3. International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern Regional Manager William Stark noted that the road to get Bibi free has been long and hard, but worth it.
"We here at ICC are so excited to finally see Asia get justice. It took nearly a decade, but finally justice has been done. Our prayers now are with Asia and her family as they are in extreme danger until they are safely out of Pakistan," Stark said.
"We are also very concerned for the safety of Pakistan's Christian community at large. Asia's case remains highly sensitive and the ignition point for many acts of religious hatred. It is our hope that Pakistan's security forces will be able to secure all Pakistani Christians, as extremists will likely seek revenge against their community," he added.
"It is also ICC's hope that this decision will lay a foundation for reforming Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws and signal to both Pakistan and the world that justice will prevail over extremism, even when a religious minority is accused of blasphemy."
4. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom argued that Bibi's original stay from execution following an appeal was at least partly due to the murder of two Pakistani government officials — Shahbaz Bhatti, a cabinet member, and Salmaan Taseer, the then governor of Punjab, for speaking out in defence of Bibi.
"The case of Asia Bibi illustrates the extent to which blasphemy laws can be exploited to target minority communities," said USCIRF Chair Tenzin Dorjee.
"These laws seek to protect entire religions rather than the individual, as should be the case under international human rights standards. It is deeply troubling that Bibi's case even reached this level, where she almost became the first person in Pakistan's history to be executed for the crime of blasphemy," Dorjee added.
USCIRF also said that as much as it is worth celebrating Bibi's freedom, it is important to remember that there are at least another 40 individuals in prison in Pakistan due to blasphemy charges.
5. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Christian Solidarity Worldwide pointed out that the Supreme Court judgment acknowledged that the blasphemy laws had been used to create false allegations against Bibi.
"CSW welcomes the news of Asia Bibi's acquittal and we call on the government of Pakistan to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to ensure the safety of Asia Bibi, her family, the Christian community and all involved in her case following explicit threats from certain extremist groups in the country," said CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.
"The false allegation of blasphemy against Mrs, Bibi highlights the blatant abuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws that have been used to harass and intimidate religious minorities and Muslims alike. In light of this judgement, we call on the government to implement much needed procedural amendments to prevent further misuse of the laws," Thomas added.
CSW shared that its sources are reporting a rise in tension in Pakistan due to Bibi's release, with Islamic hardliners taking to the streets to protest.
6 Aid to the Church in Need
The Roman Catholic Church's Aid to the Church in Need, which has been in contact and released statements from Bibi's family, said that the verdict could prove to be a new beginning for the country.
"Today is like the dawn of new hope for oppressed minorities," said Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK).
"It is important that justice is not just seen to be done but is done," he added, thanking the Pakistani Supreme Court justices for their decision despite opposition from Islamist protesters.
Father Emmanuel Yousaf, National Director of Pakistan's Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, said that "justice has finally been served."
"In the current developing situation and protests by extremist groups, May Our Lord bless and protect Asia and her family and keep all our Christian brothers and sisters safe here in Pakistan," Yousaf asked.