HEADLINE PAKISTAN

Aasia Acouitted by Supreme Court, Order Prompt Release

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death over alleged blasphemy, and ordered her immediate release, declaring her ‘not guilty’.

A three-judge special bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel heard Bibi’s 2014 appeal against her conviction and death sentence under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The 56-page detailed judgement was authored by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and included a concurrent opinion by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Reading out the verdict, CJP Nisar said,

“Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The judgments of the High Court as well as the Trial Court are reversed. Consequently, the conviction as also the sentence of death awarded to the appellant is set aside and she is acquitted of the charge. She be released from jail forthwith, if not required in any other criminal case.”

Further, Justice Khosa “because of some important legal and factual issues involved in the case” decided to record his separate concurring opinion which stated that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against Asia Bibi beyond a reasonable doubt. “This appeal is, therefore, allowed, the conviction and sentence of the appellant recorded and upheld by the courts below are set aside and she is acquitted of the charge by extending the benefit of doubt to her,” he stated.

Justice Khosa’s opinion added, “Blasphemy is a serious offence but the insult of the appellant’s religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous.”

“It is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful’ but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Leare, “more sinned against than sinning,”

Justice Khosa stated.

Allegations

The allegations against Aasia date back to June 2009, when she was labouring in a field and a row broke out with some Muslim women who alleged that she committed blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010, despite her advocates maintaining her innocence and insisting the accusers held grudges against her.