Acquittal of Asia Bibi by the Supreme Court of Pakistan
Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) hails the Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Asia Bibi of changes made under the Blasphemy law. Asia Bibi had been sentenced to death in the year 2010 under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code by the decision of the Sheikhupura Session Court. The decision was upheld by the Lahore High Court in 2014.
GHRD along with its local partner Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) has been involved in lobbying and advocacy work since Asia Bibi’s arrest on 19th June 2009. The decision of the Court comes as a shot in the arm for GHRD’s work in Pakistan.
The Pakistan Supreme Court identifies the obvious contradictions in the evidence advanced by the prosecution and points out that the Blasphemy case could have been filed merely on the basis of a personal dispute between Asia Bibi and the Muslim women with whom she had quarreled.
The Court distinctly acknowledges the fact that Blasphemy laws have been misused and cites several cases to illustrate its point. The Court also acknowledges that many individuals have been killed without the due process of law, merely because of an accusation under the Blasphemy law. GHRD appreciates the decision of the Court which clarifies that determination of a crime must be made by the Court and individuals cannot take law into their own hands.
GHRD’s Chairman, Mr. Sradhanand Sital stated that “Asia Bibi has been languishing in jail for 8 years. This case is a personification of the gross misuse of the judicial system to target individuals from the minority community. This case also highlights the persecution faced by minority women in particular. The Supreme Court judgement could help liberate the other individuals from the religious minority who have been wrongly accused under the Blasphemy law. ”
GHRD strongly feels that the Blasphemy law is arbitrary and violates the basic tenants of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is crucial to spark a wider debate in Pakistan to repeal the Blasphemy law which is an arbitrary and unjust law that has no place in a modern society.
GHRD is deeply concerned about the situation of law and order in Pakistan. Since the release of the judgement on 31st morning, major protests have broken out all over Pakistan. There have been reports of major roads being blocked by fundamentalist Islamic mobs protesting the judgement of the Court. Shops and commercial establishments have been closed in fear of violence by the extremist protesters.
Majoritarian mobs have sought to assert themselves with a view to intimidate and threaten the minority Christian community. There have been open calls for violence issued by the local Islamic clerics against Asia Bibi and her family. GHRD fears that fundamentalist elements could target other members of the religious minority.
Mr. Naveed Walter, president of HRFP stated that “The government must provide special security for Christian colonies, churches and other religious minorities.” GHRD exhorts the State of State of Pakistan to deals with majoritarian fundamentalist mobs with the strict hand of the law.
The authorities must do everything possible to protect the religious minorities, who are currently feeling threatened by the unruly mobs on the streets. The state is duty bound to enforce the judgement of the Supreme Court and ensure the rule of law in Pakistan.