Blasphemy convict: Aasia Bibi’s appeal at least two years away

Published: June 29, 2013

Protesters hold up placards while demanding the release of Asia Bibi at a rally in Lahore November 21, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

LAHORE: 

Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman on death row whose blasphemy conviction was decried as unjust by slain former governor Salmaan Taseer, faces a wait of at least another two years behind bars before her appeal is likely to come up before the Lahore High Court.

Bibi, 45, has been jailed since June 19, 2009, when her neighbours in a village near Nankana Sahib accused her of making derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). An additional district and sessions judge convicted and sentenced her to death in November 2010, pending confirmation of the decision by the LHC.

The case attracted the attention of then Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who visited Bibi in jail and denounced her conviction as well as the blasphemy law. A couple of months later, Taseer – and any hope Aasia Bibi had of a quick release   was killed in a hail of bullets fired by his own bodyguard.

Some two-and-a-half years later, Bibi is waiting for a date to be fixed for the hearing of her appeal. The court has a large backlog of cases and is currently hearing appeals filed at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. Appeals filed at the end of 2010 are due to come up in 2015.

A court staffer told The Express Tribune that the LHC, for the last 10 months, has prioritised the disposal of murder cases and capital sentence cases, fixing them before eight division benches. He said that there was a large backlog of such cases because of a shortage of judges.

The head of the court does have the power to hear cases out of turn. Under Article 561-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the chief justice of the LHC can fix any case before a bench out of turn upon an application from an aggrieved party, according to Advocate Aftab Ahmed Bajwa.

The LHC cause list shows that some cases from 2010, 2011 and 2012 are being heard out of turn by the court. The converse is also true: some murder and capital sentence cases from 2005 are still pending.

Aslam Pervez Sahotra, the chairman of the Human Liberation Commission Pakistan, a group that lobbies for greater awareness of human rights, said that he had sent a request to the chief justice of Pakistan that Bibi’s appeal be heard as soon as possible, but had received no response.

He said that Aasia Bibi faced threats from fellow inmates and her jailers at Sheikhupura Jail. She was reported to have been badly beaten by a jail staffer in October 2011. “For her safety, and because of the many lacunae in her conviction, her appeal should be heard immediately. We are hopeful she would be acquitted by the High Court,” he said.

According to the FIR of the case, registered at Saddar Nankana Sahib police station on June 19, 2009, on the complaint of Qari Muhammad Salam, Aasia Bibi had made blasphemous remarks after getting into an argument with Asma Bibi, her sister Mafia Bibi, and Yasmin on June 14.

The complainant said that he had summoned the witnesses and the accused and heard their stories, after which Aasia Bibi had apologised.

Nankana Sahib Additional District and Sessions Judge Muhammad Naveed Iqbal presided over her trial, hearing eight prosecution witnesses, but none in defence of Aasia Bibi. On November 8, 2010, he sentenced her to hang to death.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2013.

Reader Comments (41)

  • AliKuliKhan
    Jun 29, 2013 - 11:52AM

    Had this case been against PPP, The court will be hearing it on a day to basis. The life of this poor women has no meaning when it comes to attracting court’s attention. The court would rather devote it’s energies to the Zardari and Musharraf cases. Zardari and Musharraf will walk eventually but the poor women will stay in jail. So much for an independent judiciary. Its independent of accountability.

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  • Aysha M
    Jun 29, 2013 - 12:31PM

    Pakistan has turned into a sectarian/ethnic sty.

    The unprecedented legislation in the history of modern constitution in 1974, when the state of Pakistan brought religion into public domain and took on the responsibility to identify an individual’s faith for him was beginning of where we have landed today.

    Laws pertaining to Ahmedis should go and so should the blasphemy law, otherwise there is no hope for the state of Pakistan.

    Aasia Bibi should be released immediately, enough of mullah madness, completely devoid of method

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  • Ahmed
    Jun 29, 2013 - 1:00PM

    Please do the right thing and act smartly or else more fingers will be raised against this Law.
    Theres nothing wrong with the law.

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  • Iqbal
    Jun 29, 2013 - 1:32PM

    Pakistan continues to live in the medieval times. If our ancestors were behaving like barbarians in the 7th century it does not mean we have to. Rest of the world has moved on and is progressing very well.
    Am I surprised Pakistan is the dump of this world?

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  • Umer
    Jun 29, 2013 - 1:41PM

    @Ahmed:

    Theres nothing wrong with the law.

    There is everything wrong with the law. This law has been nothing but trouble.

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  • ss
    Jun 29, 2013 - 1:48PM

    @Ahmed:
    even after reading this article you think there is nothing wrong with the law?

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  • Ahmed
    Jun 29, 2013 - 1:55PM

    Please look closely. It’s the implementation that is wrong, not the law. If 1000 innocent people are hanged so will we say that the death penalty is wrong? That is why i said ” act samrtly”.

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  • Aysha M
    Jun 29, 2013 - 2:01PM

    Party leaders and legislators should understand that Bhutto did not gain anything, no political mileage, by caving in to mullah pressure in 1974 and declaring Ahmedis non-muslims.

    Its time to take a bold decision, release Aasia Bibi, These mullahs have insatiable thirst for sectarianism and divisiveness, enough of feeding these monsters, it is time to shut down their businesses.

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  • Parvez
    Jun 29, 2013 - 2:13PM

    It is quite evident that the failure of higher judiciary to do what is right …………. is the problem.

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  • usman lateef
    Jun 29, 2013 - 2:17PM

    Nothing wrong wth the law … bt it shud b executed in a fair transparent n careful way … for liberals : no law in Pakistan is being executed correctly so shud we abolish entire justice system n laws ??

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  • ;-)chief
    Jun 29, 2013 - 2:36PM

    Asia bibi should join PPP, she will get an early date from SC………

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  • Tony
    Jun 29, 2013 - 2:40PM

    @Usman – Its not matter of being Liberal , a law which is being used wrongfully needs to be ammened or changed unless more people get executed just because people want to take their reveange .
    If one of your family member was treated as Aasia Bibi was treated iam sure people like you all would start protests to change the law. If this was done in US there would have been big protests in Pakistan for release of the victims .
    In Pakistan if raise your voice you are called Liberals who dont accept rule of the country .That poor lady has children and a husband who have suffered quite long and more then thay can bear. What justice will she get after 2 years when she cant get now.
    A big thumsdown on the Pakistani justice system because all of them are corrupt from top to bottom.
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  • usman lateef
    Jun 29, 2013 - 2:57PM

    @Tony: A big thumsdown on the Pakistani justice system because all of them are corrupt from top to bottom … so get ur answrr in what u said by urself … its not a law which is wrng bt system !!! its not aasia bibis case being pending alone… there r thousands of other cases too … so no need to amend the law bt to make the system better … law is same for everyone … same courts acquitted Rimsha in a blasphmy case n the mullah who accused her of blasphmy is under detention … yeah one addition shud b made in this law dat as it iz in Qazf (accusation of adultry) that accuser has to face Punishmnt of the crime if fails to prove his accusations true , same shud be made in Section 295C of Pakistan Penal Code.

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  • ashar
    Jun 29, 2013 - 4:04PM

    @Aysha M:

    Well, I have seen you advocating MQM all the time. I wonder what you and your party have become and why you people still call yourself mohajirs, when you are so indifferent rather adamant towards the sacred blasphemy law.
    Mohajir is the one who migrates to save his Religion that is Islam. This word, its meaning all belongs to one religion only. Mohajir migrated to make Pakistan a country with Islam a public domain.

    I agree the law has been misused but it does not qualify to simply repeal it. As for the above news, now all of us know that the particular news-reporter never miss an opportunity, however there are hundreds of other cases pending in line even the appeals filed before this particular one, but since they do not pertain to this particular matter hence they are not newsworthy.

    Keeping a stress on a particular matter some times proved counter productive instead of convincing people in the favour of news story, which ET should think about.

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  • Umer
    Jun 29, 2013 - 4:15PM

    @Ahmed:

    Please look closely. It’s the implementation that is wrong, not the law.

    When this law did not exist there was no problem. Only since this black law has come into being that there have been problems. Go into history and show me the cases where there was any problem before this law?.There was none. This law was brought with bad intentions to start with and therefore we have the devastating consequences. There was no legitimate need to bring this law.

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  • Bilal
    Jun 29, 2013 - 4:16PM

    Poor Pakistan.
    She was in in limelight , imagine thousands lingering in jails for years before their hearing.

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  • Azmat Khan
    Jun 29, 2013 - 4:17PM

    Why no defence witness was not called and heard in the additional session judge court in Aasia Bibi case? What is this farce in the name of justice? In the tenure of this NS government forget about seeing any change in the defamed Blasphemy Law.

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  • Umer
    Jun 29, 2013 - 4:17PM

    @usman lateef:

    for liberals : no law in Pakistan is being executed correctly so shud we abolish entire justice system n laws ??

    No, just the black laws such as blasphemy law which are nothing but trouble; which were not needed in the first place as there was no problem to begin with. The problem started with these black laws.

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  • Aysha M
    Jun 29, 2013 - 4:33PM

    @ashar:
    So you want to make this about MQM, A news item which is not even remotely concerned with MQM

    OK

    why you people still call yourself mohajirs

    Because in no other province there is quota system, this was done to marginalize urban population of Sind.

    Why was there no quota fixed for rural Punjab, KPK and Baluchistan

    and there is more . . .

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  • ashar
    Jun 29, 2013 - 4:47PM

    @Aysha M:

    Calling ourselves mohajirs has nothing to do with quota system. It is a name adopted ideologically by Mohajirs. Even those who are not affected by the quota system living in Panjab or KP are still mohajirs despite of their complete adaptation into the culture of their respective areas.
    If you do have any confusion on it then please ask your elders. And also take his views on the blasphemy law you people criticize in ignorance.

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  • The Paki!
    Jun 29, 2013 - 4:49PM

    @ Aysha M

    Following is the definition of Mohajir/Refugee/Immigrant as per the United Nations:

    The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees has adopted the following definition of a refugee (in Article 1.A.2):

    [A]ny person who: owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

    I hope nothing of it applies to you or so called Mohajirs. Otherwise please go back to India if you still don’t want to be the part of Pakistan! Be Pakistani and live as Pakistani.

    And I request you to stop abusing this “Mohajir” word which has a deep association with early Islamic immigrants, Indo-Pak independence immigrants and all the persecuted immigrants throughout the world.Recommend

  • Aysha M
    Jun 29, 2013 - 5:06PM

    @The Paki!:
    @ashar:
    Unbelievable stuff, so this is going to be about MQM and Mohajir
    Fine
    Now I was given a few names; tilyer, makar, tauray, bharlay, and mohajir, so from the options made available, mohajir appeared least demeaning, so that was taken on, ask your elders they will confirm.

    Now people in urban Sind consider themselves as new sindhis, so if permitted, this is our new identity.

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  • nirmal s maunder
    Jun 29, 2013 - 5:10PM

    Imprisoning of aasia is a blot on pakistan.the problem will not be solved even by her being aquited today itself.the country has been radicalized & mullas given licence to kill.So like Rimsha,she will have to lave the country to remain alive.and she is not the only one but a symbol of thousands innocent people being tortured by mullas,mostly minorities but also some muslims.Unless pakistan repeals anti blasphemy laws,hadood LAWS & ANTI AHMEDIA LAWS,IT WILL REMAIN a uncivilized & barbaric nation in the eyes of world.

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  • Aysha M
    Jun 29, 2013 - 5:28PM

    @ashar:
    @The Paki!:
    Unbelievable stuff, so this is going to be about MQM and Mohajir

    Fine
    I was given a few names; tilyer, makar, tauray, bharlay, liffafay, khumbay and mohajir, so from the options made available, mohajir appeared least demeaning, so that was taken on, ask your elders they will confirm.

    Now people in urban Sind consider themselves as new sindhis, so if permitted, this is our new identity.

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  • Aysha M
    Jun 29, 2013 - 5:40PM

    @The Paki!:
    @ashar:
    I have posted comment in response to these contributors, could ET please put it through

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  • Jibran
    Jun 29, 2013 - 5:48PM

    @ashar:
    @The Paki!:
    Typical PML N mindset. Instead of staying focused on the topic, start diversionary tactics by criticizing the person who is pointing out a problem.

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  • The Paki!
    Jun 29, 2013 - 6:07PM

    Qouting Churchill “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”. If people started to call out names, you would change your identity? It’s disgusting to see the noble word abused as such. Like the honorable word “Taliban” literally meaning “students” is being abused for the past 15 years.

    And please note that my family also migrated from India, but I take pride on being a Pakistani alone, nothing else!

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  • Tony
    Jun 29, 2013 - 6:22PM

    @Usman Lateef – My friend the law has to be changed or amended or abolished completely. I have been living in one of the arab states all my life but here we all co exist happily with different people from different countries and religions living peacefully. All know their limits and understand each other don’t push people to accept their ideologies as they do in Pakistan. If u dont accept you will be killed , girls are raped innocent are prosecuted.
    Why can’t muslims of Pakistan live peacefully with their fellow citizens peacefully whereas when compared to Arab states people co exist peacefully.

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  • csmann
    Jun 29, 2013 - 6:25PM

    If blasphemy law is good,why it is not applied against mullahs who blaspheme other peoples’ religion and prophets daily?

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  • Anon
    Jun 29, 2013 - 9:26PM

    She will be set free if she converts to Islam………

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  • swat-team
    Jun 29, 2013 - 9:33PM

    As long as a blasphemy law remains on the books and is enforced with such vigour as in Pakistan, we live in a failed society.
    Strangely, the devout Mullahs who take it upon themselves to blaspheme against other belief systems on a regular basis think nothing of breaking the law and are never prosecuted, or are left to rot in jail until their case is brought to a tribunal.
    Once again a sure sign of a failed state where a particular belief system poisons fundamental justice it supposedly advocates.

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  • Jun 29, 2013 - 10:27PM

    @The Paki!:
    @ashar:

    I seriously take issue with this ambush against Ayesha M, conflating her political leanings with such ethnic bigotry and racist tones and ideological religious nationalist revisionist propaganda. I myself am an Urdu-speaker – the correct political term – and take serious issue with this prejudiced derailment and hi-jacking of the article, which is about Pakistan’s intrusive Islamist state atmosphere denying rights against non-Muslim minorities, which includes this extreme blasphemy law, which was supped up on-top of an old common British law interpreted and introduced by a religiously dogmatic Zia-ul-Haq with Deoband-Wahhabi leanings in the 80′s, all of which would have been alien to Jinnah the founder.

    So back on topic.

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  • Sardar Umar Khan
    Jun 30, 2013 - 2:47AM

    Blasphemy law appears to be vague. If the case is not proved then the complainant should get the same punishment as if committed blasphemy. If one arranges 20 witnesses and accuses a famous leader or a grand Mulla what will be the legal status.It may happen one day. More over this so called blasphemy started during Zia’s era.It should be repealed.Have courage otherwise one day YOU will be the target

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  • Insaan
    Jun 30, 2013 - 3:38AM

    @usman lateef: Nothing wrong wth the law … bt it shud b executed in a fair transparent n careful way … for liberals : no law in Pakistan is being executed correctly so shud we abolish entire justice system n laws ??

    This law should only apply to Muslims. Blasphemy is being specifically used to kill non-Muslims and/or destroy their properties and places of worship.Why not give the same punishment to Muslims who destroy Bible or a Hindu holy book. God really needs Pakistanis to protect himself and his religion.

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  • Raj - USA
    Jun 30, 2013 - 7:17AM

    @bigsaf:
    I am very glad you are standing up firmly for Ayesha M who is trying to reason with the likes of ashar. What Ayesha is saying is that the society has become insane and these laws only add fuel to the fire.

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  • Mirza
    Jun 30, 2013 - 7:48AM

    With our present mindset I have no hope for Asia or for that matter any other minority in Pakistan. The higher courts have all the time for political cases and suo motu as if they are waiting in the wing to jump on trivial and political cases not the actual appeals against wrongful convictions.

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  • Mitch
    Jun 30, 2013 - 8:21AM

    Such is the “justice” of Shariah law. The evidence and proof is merely the strength of the accusation. The standard is “What did Mohammad do?” (Or what did Mohammad get away with . . . )

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  • Raj - USA
    Jun 30, 2013 - 8:25AM

    @Anon: “She will be set free if she converts to Islam………”

    No. No one is interested in converting her as she is not a young or underaged girl. No men or woman qualify for converting. Have you ever heard of any woman or man converting to Islam in Pakistan?

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  • Zarb e Hanood
    Jun 30, 2013 - 10:00AM

    The Courts indifference to the plight of a citizen of a minority religion does nothing to foster the image of enlightened moderation. Rather it does the reverse of projecting the image of a religiously bigoted society bent on persecuting those who do not adhere to the majority religion.Recommend

  • Aysha M
    Jun 30, 2013 - 12:26PM

    @bigsaf:
    Thanks for your support

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  • Prof. Shahid Mobeen
    Jun 30, 2013 - 3:41PM

    The latest visit of the representative of United Nations has highlighted that in such cases the judges in Pakistan are afraid of following the appeals. Others would say they lack courage!

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