–Petitioner urges top court to include members of Appellate Shariat Court in bench that will review petition
LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday fixed a review petition against its verdict acquitting Christian woman Aasia Bibi in the country’s most high-profile blasphemy case last year.
The case will be heard by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel on January 29.
The review petition has been filed by Qari Muhammad Salaam.
On October 31, 2018, the apex court had acquitted Aasia Bibi, who was facing a death sentence for blasphemy, and ordered to release her from prison immediately.
“The appeal is allowed. She has been acquitted. The judgement of the high court, as well as trial court, is reversed. Her conviction is set aside,” then-CJP Mian Saqib Nisar had said in the ruling.
Justice (r) Nisar had announced, “Aasia is to be set free if she is not wanted in any other case.”
Aasia Bibi was convicted and sentenced to hang by a trial court in 2010. In, 2014, Lahore High Court (LHC) had upheld the verdict.
Following the acquittal verdict, protests had erupted in several cities.
Enraged masses had blocked several routes across the country for two days, while at some places they had also set fire to vehicles. The demonstrations saw the closure of schools, colleges and universities, as well as cancellation of examinations.
The government and the protesters from different religious groups, led by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Rizvi, reached an agreement two days later on November 2.
The law enforcement agencies had rounded up around 1,800 individuals by Monday night. The Ministry of Interior had said that the arrested suspects had been booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
Although the government decided to take action against miscreants involved in vandalism, torture and arson during the demonstrations across the country, it later showed leniency by dropping the cases against the TLP workers.
Qari Salaam filed the review petition in the case on November 1, 2018, at the Lahore Registry of the apex court, urging the SC to reconsider its decision.
The petitioner had also sought the placement of Aasia’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) till the judgement is reviewed.
In the petition, it has been argued that the SC’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi did not meet the standards of jurisprudence as well as Islamic provisions and the “normal principle of justice with reference to application in blasphemy laws”.
It has also asked whether the SC was bound to take into consideration “the nature of the case” and consider all the technical faults in it — especially the inordinate delay in the filing of the FIR [first information report], the defective investigation — and let them become “a hurdle in the dispensation of justice, in view of the application of blasphemy laws read with judgments of the superior courts”.
It has further asked that a member of the Appellate Shariat Court be included in the bench that reviews the judgement “because this matter needs detailed in-depth consideration and due to the peculiar circumstances of the case as well as Application of Section 295-C in its time letter and spirit”.
It has also challenged the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the alleged ‘confession’ that Aasia Bibi was forced to make by the people of her village and argued that the Supreme Court should have applied the Law of Evidence differently in this case.