LAHORE: Appeal of Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, will be taken up by a three-member Supreme Court bench on July 22.
Aasia’s family and lawyer have high hopes that she will be acquitted.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Saiful Mulook, her counsel, said that several legal points would lead to Aasia’s acquittal. “Firstly, the FIR against Aasia was registered five days after the alleged incident. This casts a serious doubt on the narrative of the prosecution. This delay shows that the complainant fabricated the story with support from others and implicated Aasia in a false case. Secondly, the witnesses against Aasia do not fulfill the criteria of Tazkiatul Shuhood. I will challenge their credibility. Thirdly, the complainant, Qari Muhammad Salaam, himself admitted before the trial court that he had consulted others for five days to determine whether Aasia had committed blasphemy or not before finally going to the police to lodge FIR against her,” he said. He said each of these points was sufficient for acquittal.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Ashiq Masih, Aasia’s husband, said that he was hopeful that the Supreme Court would free his wife. “My five children and I have suffered a lot during the past six years. My two daughters and one son were married in the absence of their mother,” he said.
Ashiq blamed his lawyer for the rejection of Aasia’s appeal by the Lahore High Court. “I was unable to inform Aasia that her appeal will be heard by the SC when I met her in Multan Jail on July 9 because the hearing had not been fixed then. I cannot contact her now as there is no telephone facility at the jail,” he said.
The LHC had upheld Aasia’s death sentence last year. Aasia, 49, a mother of five, has been in jail since 2009 and on death row since November 2010 when she was found guilty by a subordinate court of making blasphemous remarks during an argument with a Muslim woman.
Two high-profile politicians – the then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti – were murdered in 2011 after calling for reform of blasphemy law and describing Bibi’s trial as flawed.
According to her statement, she was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Several Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she should not touch the water bowl. At that point, they had an altercation and exchanged harsh worlds. Aasia said the women later levelled blasphemy allegations against her in connivance with the wife of Qari Salaam.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, will hear her appeal. Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Justice Umar Ata Bandial are the other two members of the bench.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.