ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court is likely to take up the Aasia Bibi blasphemy case during the next couple of months.
Aasia’s lawyer Saiful Malook told The Express Tribune that the court’s additional registrar had conveyed to him last week that the case was likely to be fixed for hearing next month, but would definitely be listed in December if there was a delay due to some reason.
“I have been told that currently the Supreme Court’s special bench is hearing criminal appeals filed in 2015. The Aasia case was listed the same year. Therefore, it will be heard during the ongoing year,” said the lawyer.
According to legal experts, it is not yet clear whether a bench led by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will resume hearing the case or the special bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, will take it up.
Aasia, a 51-year-old Christian, has been on the death row since November 2010 after being convicted of committing blasphemy during an argument with a Muslim woman in Sheikhupura. However, her case gained prominence after then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer pleaded for her retrial and was subsequently shot dead by his guard, Mumtaz Qadri, in January 2011.
In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld Aasia’s death sentence. However, in July 2015, the Supreme Court stayed her execution.
The last time her case was taken up was on October 13 last year by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Nisar and comprising Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman and Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik.
The hearing, however, was quickly adjourned because Justice Rehman recused himself as he was the CJ of the Islamabad High Court when it heard the Salmaan Taseer assassination case. The assassin had cited Taseer’s interest in the Aasia Bibi case as his motive.
According to her statement, Aasia was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Several Muslim women labourers objected, saying that she should not touch the water bowl. At that point, they had an altercation and exchanged harsh words. Aasia said the women later levelled allegations of blasphemy against her in connivance with the wife of one Qari Salaam.
Issuing the written order dismissing Qadri’s appeal against his death sentence, Justice Khosa had urged the state to ensure that no innocent person had to face an investigation or trial on the basis of false allegations of blasphemy. The judge observed in the 2015 verdict that it was an unfortunate fact which could not be disputed that in many cases allegations of blasphemy were levelled for extraneous purposes and in the absence of adequate safeguards against misapplication or misuse of the law by motivated persons. “The persons falsely accused of commission of that offence suffer beyond proportion or repair.”
The order said that keeping in view the strong religious sentiments in society, it ought to be understood quite clearly that any call coming from serious quarters for reform in the laws regarding offences related to religion could only be a call for introducing safeguards against misapplication or misuse of such laws by motivated persons and such a call was ordinarily not to be construed as a call against the religious aspects of the offences covered by such laws.