Islamabad: On Monday, October 8, the Supreme Court of Pakistan rescheduled the hearing pertaining to a woman on death row. The matter was originally scheduled for hearing of the final appeal, in relation to the conviction of a Pakistani Christian mother, Asia Bibi, for committing the offence of blasphemy i.e. profanely talking about God.
The three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, is yet to ascertain as per the postponement, the final date of the hearing.
In accordance with the law, blasphemy is prohibited under the Pakistani Penal Code. It is based on Sharia law (Islamic law) which thereby mandates execution for those found guilty of committing blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.
The accusations against Asia Bibi date back to June 2009, following which she was convicted and sentenced to death. Till date, Asia Bibi has been the longest prisoner in a case of blasphemy. Other prisoners, who were released despite the charges of blasphemy were pursuant to their release, gunned down by Islamic extremists. Ever since 2010, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has been approached for hearing of the final appeal in the matter.
Earlier in 2011, the former Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer and Shabbaz Bhatti came forward in support of Asia Bibi, wherein they extended their support towards her release and also challenged the prevalence of Pakistan's Blasphemy Law. This created a feeling of anger amongst the Muslim radicals, who thereby went on-to committing assassination of the two supporters. In 2015, the appeal was postponed twice and ultimately scheduled for hearing in October 2016. However, the proceedings were yet again postponed to a later date.
The alleged incident occurred when one day amidst their work on the farm, Asia Bibi decided to get water for her and her fellow farmworkers. However, it was during that time, when some Muslim women refused to consume water from the same container as used by Asia Bibi since she was a Christian.
It has been claimed that the Muslim women demanded Asia Bibi to convert to Islam, which was firmly refused by her. The arguments instigated Asia Bibi, who thereby in the heat of the moment feeling vexatious, made certain derogatory remarks and other statements against Prophet Mohammed. Subsequently, after five days, the Christian mother was accused by an angry Muslim mob of speaking sacrilegiously about God. The petitioner has been accused with a crime that has the potential to incite mobs to kill and thereby carries an automatic death penalty.
The Advocate on record for the petitioner, Advocate Saif-ul Malook was of the optimistic opinion that the originally scheduled appeal date would mark the release of Asia Bibi. He had further decided in advance that in case the decision of the appeal is not in favour of the petitioner, then Advocate Malook was certain to file a review petition, which could take years to complete. The accusations against Asia Bibi have been time and again proven to be fraudulent in nature and hence, it was imperative that justice be served and that Asia Bibi is completely exonerated from the wrongful conviction.
The British Pakistani Christians Association stated that it has now become imperative for the Court to take its final decision in the matter and cause any further delay in the already prolonged matter.