Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a review petition challenging the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, The Express Tribune reported. On October 31, the Supreme Court had reversed the verdicts of a trial court and the Lahore High Court, acquitting Bibi of the charge of blasphemy.
Bibi, a farm worker, was convicted in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam, after her neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass, as she was not a Muslim. In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for supporting Bibi.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, rejected the plea filed by prayer leader Qari Muhammad Salaam on the grounds that the petition failed to prove any shortcomings in the verdict, The Express Tribune reported. “Does Islam say that one should be punished if the crime is not proven?” Khosa asked Salaam’s counsel.
Salaam’s counsel had told the court that it must take the opinion of Muslim clergy and religious scholars into consideration. The court turned down the argument and said the case was not a matter of religion. “Tell us where we failed to take into account testimony or where we misread the testimonies,” Justice Khosa asked.
There were widespread protests in Pakistan following Bibi’s acquittal. Besides Khosa, the bench comprised justices Qazi Faez Isa and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Dawn reported. Salaam, who lives in a village in Nankana Sahib tehsil, had lodged a first information report about the alleged blasphemy incident back in 2010.
The Islamabad administration on Monday made stringent security arrangements in the capital ahead of the verdict. Paramilitary troops were deployed in sensitive zones in the city. Islamabad District Magistrate Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat had written to the higher authorities asking for the deployment of Pakistani Rangers in the capital, The Express Tribune reported.
Bibi’s lawyer Saif-ul Malook, who had fled to the Netherlands after the October judgement, returned to Pakistan to represent her. He told Reuters before the hearing on Monday that he expected the review plea to be dismissed. “They have filed the petition on flimsy grounds,” he had said. “They have not attempted to counter her release on constitutional grounds.”