62 killed without trial since 1990: SC

'No one has the authority to punish anyone on their own'


​ Hasnaat Malik December 05, 2021
A file photo of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD:

The Supreme Court had noted In October 2018 that during the last three decades, 62 people had been killed on the mere allegations of committing blasphemy before they could be tried under the law.

The observation was made by a three-judge bench of the apex court in the Aasia Bibi case judgment.

The court also held that awarding sentences in blasphemy cases was the duty of the State and no one else had the authority to take the law into their own hands and punish anyone on their own.

“Under the authority and command of the Constitution and the law, it is the duty of the State to ensure that no incident of blasphemy shall take place in the country,” stated the Supreme Court in its verdict that absolved Aasia Bibi of blasphemy charges three years ago.

“In case of the commission of such crime, only the state has the authority to bring the machinery of law into operation, bringing the accused before the court of the competent jurisdiction for trial in accordance with law,” the verdict stated, read out by former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar.

Read Blasphemy hits Muslims hardest, says Imran

“However, it is not for the individuals, or a gathering [mob], to decide as to whether any act falling within the purview of Section 295-C has been committed or not, because as stated earlier, it is the mandate of the court to make such decision after conducting a fully-qualified trial on the basis of credible evidence brought before it,” it added

“The latest example of the misuse of the law was the murder of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, who in April 2017 was killed by a mob on the premises of the university merely due to an allegation that he posted blasphemous content online.”

The landmark verdict noted that tolerance was the basic principle of Islam. “It is a religious and a moral duty and further relates to the dignity of human beings, the equality amongst all creations of Allah and also to the fundamental freedom of thought, conscience and belief.”

The verdict also referred to the case of one Ayub Masih, who was accused of blasphemy by his neighbour Muhammad Akram. The alleged incident took place on October 14, 1996 and the accused was arrested, but despite the arrest, the houses of Christians were set ablaze and the entire Christian population was forced to leave the village.

According to the Supreme Court, Ayub was shot and injured in a sessions court and was also attacked in jail. After the trial was concluded, Ayub was convicted and sentenced to death. The sentence was upheld by the high court, but in an appeal before the Supreme Court, it was observed that the complainant wanted to grab a plot on which Ayub and his father were residing. After implicating him in the case, the complainant managed to grab the seven-marla plot.

The appeal was accepted by the top court and the conviction was set aside.

The apex court also referred to Mumtaz Qadri case judgment wherein it was held that “the commission of blasphemy is abhorrent and immoral besides being a manifestation of intolerance but at the same time a false allegation regarding commission of such an offence is equally detestable besides being culpable”.

Issuing a written order on the dismissal of Mumtaz Qadri’s appeal against his death sentence, the top court had urged the State to ensure that no one is forced to endure an investigation or trial on the basis of false blasphemy allegations.

Authoring the 39-page verdict, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had said Qadri had murdered Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer on the basis of nothing but hearsay.

Recently, a delegation of the European Union Parliament visited Pakistan and expressed its serious concern over the insecurity of minority communities as well as misuse of the blasphemy law.

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