Asia Bibi Freed After Spending Years on Death Row on Blasphemy Charges in Pakistan

https://timesofislamabad.com/07-Nov-2018/aasia-bibi-name-on-ecl-federal-government-takes-important-decision

PAKISTAN

Asia Bibi has been freed from death penalty on charges of blasphemy by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Priyanka Yadav | The New Leam

Asia Bibi / Image Source – Timesofislamabad.com

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday announced to withdraw the charges of death penalty from Asia Bibi in the 2010 Blasphemy case. The three judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel overturned the death sentence awarded to Asia Bibi in 2010 on Wednesday.

Asia Bibi also known as Aisa Norren is a Pakistani Christian women living in Pakistan, in 2009 she got involved in quarrel with two Muslim women while harvesting berries in the farm. The two women accused Asia for insulting Prophet Muhammad and making blasphemous remarks on Islam.

In defence of the accusation Asia stated that the quarrel with the two women started when both the women refused to drink water which was brought by Asia as she was a Christian woman, Asia agreed that exchange of abusive words did take place amongst them but no blasphemous remarks were made. Instead Asia accused the two women for framing her under the blasphemy law unnecessarily.

Asia stated that she respected the Islamic law and tradition and she equally respected the Prophet as for the charges of insulting the Prophet, she mentioned that they (insulting the prophet) were all baseless.

Asia Bibi got arrested after police investigation took place based on the complaint filed. The investigation was supplemented by the statement given by the women who were involved in the argument and the women who were present at the moment.  

The two women who accused Asia, Mafia and Asma, gave a statement in the court claiming that they heard Asia make the allegedly blasphemous remarks, and later “admit” to making the statements during a “public gathering”.  A local cleric, Qari Mohammad Salaam also supported the women’s claim and later on registered criminal complaint with the police.

Based on the charges and the evidences presented in the trial court in 2010, the court in Islamabad refused to grant her (Asia) bail and instead sentenced her to death under the Blasphemy Law of the State. In 2015 Aisa bibi’s trail was upheld and finally in 2019 she has been set free from all the charges made against her.

While making the judgement the Supreme Court of Pakistan stated “The prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” concluded the chief justice and said she could immediately walk free from jail if not wanted in connection with any other case. “It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’,” reads the judgment written by Justice Asif Khosa, “but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’.”

The detailed verdict observed that “It is the duty of the State to ensure that no incident of blasphemy shall take place in the country,” adding that “… However, it is not for the individuals, or a gathering (mob), to decide as to whether any act” amounts to blasphemy. “It is the mandate of the Court to make such decision after conducting a fully qualified trial and on the basis of credible evidence brought before.”

Asia Bibi’s case gathered large media support; it also raised several questions on the country’s (Pakistan) blasphemy law. The ex-governor of the state Salman Taseer was killed for protesting against the blasphemy law demanding the release of the Asia Bibi.

According to the Balsphemy Law of Pakistan, it is a crime to disturb a religious assembly, trespass on burial grounds, insult religious beliefs or intentionally destroy or defile a place or an object of worship. If anybody breaches the law the maximum punishment awarded to them was 10 years of jail without fine. This law was inherited by Pakistan word to word from the British Code of conduct after partition in 1947. The law was amended in 1980s first, in which it was made more specific for the Islamic religion. The amendment said that making derogatory remarks against Islamic personage will be a punishable offence and the accused will be sentenced for a jail term of three years for the same.

The second amendment took place in 1982 in which it was made a punishable offence up to life imprisonment for “wilful” desecration of the Quran (Holy book of the Muslim community). Further the law was again amended in 1986 which made blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad a punishable offence, where the penalty could extend up to death sentence.

Asia Bibi was punished for blasphemy under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly defaming Prophet Mohammad. As per which she was sentenced to death. On Wednesday, 8th May 2019 the Supreme Court of Pakistan freed her from all the charges.

Asia Bibi, who was under solitary confinement for nine years, can now walk free. In her interaction with the media, Asia stated that she could not believe her ears on what was she hearing, she was shocked and overwhelmed by the fact that she is free now. 

 

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