Asia Bibi, the Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s highest court, is set to have that verdict reviewed, beginning on Tuesday.
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) reports that the petition before the Supreme Court of Pakistan “is the last hurdle in the long running saga of Asia Bibi. The world waits anxiously to see whether the Pakistani government and courts will be true to their word and uphold the rule of law or whether more delays will ensue.”
“News of the long-awaited judicial review date came via lawyer Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, who filed the petition for judicial review. He said to AFP news agency: ‘The court will determine if our appeal against her acquittal is admitted’.”
The last hurdle in the long-running saga of Asia Bibi
Last October Bibi was acquitted by the court, but, in a deal with the Islamist leaders who backed demonstrations and riots across the country, the government agreed to a final review of the verdict.
“Asia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row, has been in hiding since the Supreme Court freed her in October, with religious hardliners calling for her death and putting pressure on the government to prevent her from leaving the country,” Reuters reported.
“Most reviews of Supreme Court verdicts are dismissed immediately, but the politically sensitive nature of the case has added an extra layer of uncertainty.”
Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, has returned to Pakistan after earlier fleeing to Europe for his personal safety. He told Reuters he expects the appeal against Bibi’s acquittal will be dismissed.
“’They have filed the petition on flimsy grounds. They haven’t attempted to counter her release on constitutional grounds,’ said Malook, who returned to Pakistan this week and will represent Bibi in court. ‘God willing, she will have the decision in her favor tomorrow. She will be a free person to go anywhere she wants to’.”
BCPA adds a crucial detail: “There have been many inquiries regarding the whereabouts of Asia Bibi’s family to both the charities and governments around the world. BPCA is aware that the family of Asia Bibi is now in a very safe location and are no longer being chased house to house by extremists intent on enacting revenge on Asia Bibi, in the form of extra-judicial killings. Despite her acquittal, Asia Bibi is determined to be a blasphemer by at least 90% of the nation of Pakistan and therefore a target for assassination.”
Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 following an incident in which she was accused of drinking from a glass used by Muslim co-workers on a farm, and was then accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam. Bibi has always maintained her innocence.