9 years of hell and then some has finally ended for Asia Bibi today after the Pakistani Supreme Court upheld its October 2018 decision to overturn her death penalty conviction.
Asia Bibi, a Christian mother from Punjab Province, was convicted in 2010 of blasphemy after she was accused, without evidence, of defaming the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with Muslim colleagues. In Pakistan, Blasphemy is a crime punishable by death, but regardless of where you stand on the Blasphemy Laws, this situation was she said she said where the evidence was not there to prove she was even guilty of blasphemy.
The 3 judge panel led by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had ruled that the petitioners who wanted the acquittal reversed did not provide sufficient evidence to warrant a reversal of the October 2018 ruling. The Supreme Court in addition to the lack of evidence noticed major irregularities in the prosecution, and contradictory testimony by her accusers in this she said she said case but an appeal was launched against the acquittal which was why we were here today seeing the Supreme Court make the final call again. Chief Justice Khosa said that had the situation not been regarding blasphemy laws, then the accusers would have faced life in prison for perjury.
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel began the hearing of the case at 1 PM. The lawyer representing the accusers knew how tough of a fight it would be to reverse the ruling so he demanded that Islamic scholars, as well as a body of Muslim scholars, who mastered the knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology, that body is known as an Ulama.
The Chief Justice hit back saying;
“How is this a matter of religion?” asked the CJP. “Has the verdict not been given on merit?”
“The verdict was given on the basis of testimonies; does Islam say that one should be punished even if they are found not guilty?
“Prove to us what (you believe) is wrong with the verdict,” said Chief Justice Khosa.
“The verdict did not take into account some views (of the witnesses’ testimonies),” said the Islamist lawyer. “If testimony isn’t further examined (by the lawyers), it is understood to be true.” The lawyer wasn’t arguing based on the claim that Asia Bibi was a blasphemer anymore, it all became a question of feelings for the Islamist lawyer.
“You should talk on the merits (of the verdict),” the Chief Justice remarked.
“The beauty of a Muslim community is that non-muslims are taken care of,” said the CJP, telling the lawyer. “First talk about the merit and tell us where the flaw is.
“First tell us where the testimony was read incorrectly [by the court]. What Islam says about it will be discussed later.
“Islam says that a testimony should be true even if it incriminates a person’s own loved ones. If we have not read the testimony correctly, we will rectify it immediately,” said the chief justice.
Khosa said, “The image of Islam we are showing to the world gives me much grief and sorrow.” Everyone has their own personal views regarding Islam and like with all religions and ideologies there should be a healthy debate on it, that being said the comments and the actions by people like Chief Justice Khosa should be strongly welcomed by everyone in the civilized world, and we should all pray for the safety of him and the two other justices.
“You are saying that Asia said this (alleged blasphemous words) while addressing 25 people. Was she addressing a jalsa (rally)?”
“In front of the investigation officer, the women said that no dispute had occurred between them,” Chief Justice noted. “This case did not have as many honest witnesses as it should have had.”
“The investigation officer says that the female witnesses changed their statements. The testimonies of the investigation officer and the witnesses are different.”
“The falsa farm’s owner did not appear in court to record his testimony. According to the law, if the testimony is not recorded under Section 342 of the CrPC [recording a statement by the accused], then it does not have any value.”
“The farm’s owner only came forward after the police started the investigation, 20 days after (it started). His testimony holds no legal value.”
“The delay of an hour is enough to create suspicion.”
The Islamist lawyer claimed that because the different testimonies by the accusers weren’t done because it was their intent to be dishonest, that their testimony should still hold legal standing.
The ruling has badly divided Pakistan, a country notorious for a less than stellar treatment of Christians and other minorities, as well as the Blasphemy Laws which have been targeted religious minorities all too often. Two senior politicians notably Shabaz Bhatti were assassinated by Islamist hardliners for defending this woman and standing against the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling the capital Islamabad was put on high alert in anticipation for violent protests from the Islamist terror groups like we saw in October 2018. The Islamabad local government dispatched large amounts of police and even paramilitary troops especially in areas of the city that will be at the center of the inevitable violent protests.
The original October 2018 acquittal led to massive violent protests in Islamabad and Lahore by the terrorist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan movement as violent clashes led to government officials urging citizens to stay at home and avoid going out. Terrorists blocked motorways in Lahore and they blocked the road linking Islamabad and Rawalpindi they shut down Islamabad.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in October blasted the riots saying “You are not aiding Islam by talking about killing judges and by killing our generals who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Khan said defending the just verdict and the Pakistani justice system. “I am appealing to our people: Do not get caught up by the worlds of these people who only want to increase their vote bank.” The Asia Bibi situation was one of the biggest challenges of Khan’s premiership he enjoys 51% support to 46% opposition amongst people in Pakistan. The terrorist leaders who fought this decision were put in jail on terrorism charges, as the Prime Minister said: “There is no way the state could be held hostage to people who refuse to follow the Supreme Court.” Now with the very positive actions, Imran Khan took on the Asia Bibi situation that doesn’t mean he doesn’t support the laws, and remember friends Pakistan lobbied aggressively to prevent the Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders’ Draw Mohammed event in the Netherlands.
With the Supreme Court’s final decision regarding Asia Bibi being made she now can leave the country and seek political asylum in the west, something we should strongly urge President Donald Trump to offer to her, but that seems unlikely as reports have suggested Asia Bibi’s daughters have been given asylum in Canada.
Today is a big victory for the causes of civility, religious freedom, fairness under the law, justice, religious tolerance, and a tolerant form of Islam which seeks coexistence, religious tolerance, and respect for justice.