Top Pakistani Court Upholds Acquittal, Frees Asia Bibi

I am really grateful to everybody, now after nine years it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday — amongst tight security in the capital — dismissed a petition seeking review of the top court’s October 31, 2018 verdict of acquitting Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years unjustly accused on death row in a blasphemy case.

“On merit, this petition is dismissed,” said by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, ending Asia Bibi’s final legal hurdle. The petitioner had failed to point out any mistake in the original judgment.

After her release from Multan’s women prison on November 7 last year, Bibi was flown to Islamabad onboard a special aircraft. She was then taken to an secret place amidst tight security. Authorities have remained tight-lipped about her movement and whereabouts for security reasons.

“I am really grateful to everybody, now after nine years it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters,” a friend quoted Bibi as saying. The friend spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity fearing for his own safety.

As the hearing started at 1pm, the petitioner Qari Muhammad Salaam’s lawyer Ghulam Ikram presented his arguments before a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Khosa and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel. The lawyer had demanded that a larger bench be made for the review the petition, saying it should include Islamic scholars and ulama.

“How is this matter of religion?” asked the CJP. “Has the verdict not been given on merit?”

“The decision was given on the basis of testimonies; does Islam say that one should be punished even if they are found not guilty?

“Prove to us what you believe is wrong with the verdict,” said Chief Justice Khosa.

When the lawyer pointed to the verdict mentioning “burden of proof” being on the petitioner, the judge asked: “Do you disagree with this rule?”

“The decision did not take into account some views of the witnesses’ testimonies,” argued the lawyer. “If a testimony is not further examined by the lawyers, it is understood to be true.”

“You should talk on the merits of the verdict],” the top judge remarked.

“The beauty of a Muslim community is that non-muslims are taken care of,” said the CJP, addressing the lawyer. “First talk about the merit and tell us where the flaw is.”

First tell us where the testimony was read incorrectly by the court. What Islam says about it will be discussed later.

“The Islam says that the person testifying should be truthful, even if speaking the truth means implicating your loved ones. If we have not read the testimony correctly, we will rectify it immediately,” said the chief justice.

Tight security

A day earlier on Monday 28th January – 2019, the capital administration made stringent security arrangements, including the deployment of paramilitary troops in Islamabad’s sensitive areas.

In a letter written to the capital chief commissioner’s office, the Islamabad district magistrate required the deployment of Pakistan Rangers personnel in the city “to avoid any untoward incident” during the hearing of a “sensitive case” on January 29.

The magistrate recommended that the Rangers authorities be approached with the request to deploy quick response forces (QRFs) of the paramilitary force in aid of the civil administration to bolster the capital’s security.