Pak. acquits Asia Bibi of blasphemy

Christian woman was facing death for ‘insulting Islam’; SC says prosecution failed to prove charges
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman on death row for blasphemy. This was her final legal appeal before execution. Ms. Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy in 2009. In 2010, a trial court sentenced her to death. In 2014, the Lahore High Court upheld the trial court’s verdict. A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar finally overturned the conviction. “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.” Ali Dayan Hasan, a senior policy adviser on human rights, said that while the Supreme Court verdict is welcome, “nothing can take away from the fact that it was primarily a miscarriage of justice and egregious judicial overreach that resulted in Asia Bibi’s decade-long incarceration and suffering”. He recalled how the Lahore High Court, back in 2010, had prohibited then President Asif Ali Zardari from using his power of pardon in Ms. Bibi’s case. “It was a prohibition of an executive action that had in fact not yet taken place. There is no precedent for this in Pakistani law.” Chairman of the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said the courts have given a landmark judgment despite threats. “It is indeed remarkable and we stand with the Supreme Court. The state must not abrogate its responsibility and must not bow before extremist forces. Asia Bibi’s case is a clear example of how extremist forces misuse the name of Islam.” He added: “If we want to save Pakistan from going down the path of bigotry, we must stop the misuse of religion.”
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