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Young boys hold signs of encouragement at a BPCA prayer gathering on the anniversary of Asia Bibi's arrest
We must continue to pray for Asia Bibi, the Justices and for Pakistan.
The appeal is over, the arguments made and the Special Bench of the Supreme Court is now in chambers. We do not really know how long it will be before they render their verdict and make their judgement public. They must write it out clearly and lucidly so that even a person with little education will see that it is just.
A special three-member bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel reserved the verdict on the appeal of the mother of five against the execution.
Chief Justice Nisar cautioned the media against commenting on or discussing the case until the detailed judgement has been issued.
During the appeal hearing , Asia Bibi's lawyer Saif ul-Malook briefed the court that the case based on a verbal clash between Bibi and a group of Muslim women was filed by a prayer leader of Katanwala in Nankana Sahib. He said the incident occurred on June 14th, but was reported five days later on June 19th.
"Are these things on the record?" the chief justice asked.
Mr Malook said no permission to file the FIR was taken from the district coordination officer or the district police officer, which was against the law and policing regulations.
The lawyer also highlighted that both Muslim witnesses for the crime had posed contradictory statements regarding the incident.
"What we can conclude from your statements is that the Imam (Mulsim cleric) himself did not witness the incident as it happened," Justice Khosa observed. "No blasphemous language was uttered in the presence of the Imam."
"According to the Imam, a panchayat [Community gathering to discuss the matter] was held in a house. It was said that 1,000 people were gathered for the meeting," said the chief justice.
Asia Bibi and two Muslim women had a heated exchange, the lawyer told the court. The reason behind it was that the women had refused to drink water from the same dish as Asia Bibi.
Chief Justice Nisar wondered whether the assistant superintendent of police's probe could be relied upon, to which the lawyer replied that police had wrongfully registered the case, against Asia Bibi and as such the case should not have got this far.
"The witness testimonies did not state that she had used blasphemous language for the Quran," said Mr Malook.
"No blasphemous words were used at all by Asia, in her statement, she said that she could not even conceive of committing blasphemy," said Mr Malook.
"She simply had an argument with two women. During that argument, they exchanged harsh words," the lawyer said.
No matter what that the verdict the Justices are in the process of outlining, the Christian community will be the ones to feel the brunt of it once the verdict is made public.
Their line of questioning seems to indicate that the allegations have yet to be proven, and that there is still reasonable doubt about the whether the blasphemy charges have been adequately proven to administer the death penalty.
The Justices did an excellent job of registering the seriousness of the charge of blasphemy under Pakistani law and communicating their desire to reflect a positive view of Islam. They note that a charge that is laid with contradictory evidence and that could be dismissed on technicalities is does not reflect positively on the nation’s official faith, and that this is a consideration for them and priority that is underscored by the existence of the legislation itself.
As reported, Asia Bibi’s lawyer brilliantly outlining and unpacking the considerable problems with the entire handling of the case, has fundamentally set forth a clear path to justice with respect to the evidence and the law.
But this said, the release of these limited comments from the Justices and the arguments in publications such as Dawn (click here), also indicate that the Special Bench does not want to painted into a corner by politicians, the public, and particularly the media. The judiciary is accountable to the legislative text and these men will need wisdom in the application of the evidence to the legislation.
Asia Bibi’s life though in the hands of God, rests in the verdict of these three men. This verdict is a somber and serious one that must be explained and prepared in the light of Pakistani law – even though it is a law that we do not agree with.
The outcome is now held in trust by the Justice and reserved for their own information and consideration. They are sealed in chambers.
We are all very confident about that the outcome will give Asia Bibi an opportunity to return to life; and We are all relieved at the peaceful handing of this appeal up to this point. However we must continue to pray into the process.
We keenly desire to see an end to the current impunity that exists in relation to making blasphemy allegations, and the ability of accusers to stir up mob violence for their own purposes as local authorities stand idly by. A guilty verdict would certainly do nothing to end this abuse of the blasphemy legislation for any citizen, let alone minorities. However, an easily rendered or inadequately explained acquittal would also make administering justice difficult.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chaiman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"It will truly be a miracle if there is a way for this Special Bench of the Supreme Court to communicate their decision in a manner that is as acceptable to religious minorities as it is to Islamists, but we can certainly pray that this will the case."
1First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men 2 for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and peaceful lives in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,…
1 Timothy 2:1-3
Ashiq Masih who is on a tour of the UK has asked BPCA to help with the ongoing costs for a solicitor and we have agreed to give a further £1500 to him when our Chairman Wilson Chowdhry, meets him again on the 11th October 2018. If you would like to contribute to this fund and for the cost that will arise to help them seek asylum post a believed positive court result please (click here).
Please also sign our petition that we might challenge for the whole of Asia Bibi's family to have a joint asylum, preventing her being split from any of her immediate family again (click here)