LHC upholds blasphemy convict Asia Bibi's death penalty

Published October 16, 2014
The Lahore High Court— File photo
The Lahore High Court— File photo

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday upheld the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy four years ago, as her lawyers vowed to appeal.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, has been on death row since November 2010 after she was found guilty of making derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) during an argument with a Muslim woman.

“A two-judge bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed the appeal of Asia Bibi but we will file an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” her lawyer Shakir Chaudhry told AFP.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan where 97 per cent of the population is Muslim and unproven claims regularly lead to mob violence.

Two high-profile politicians – then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti – were murdered in 2011 after calling for reforms to the blasphemy law and describing Bibi's trial as flawed.

The blasphemy allegations against Bibi date back to June 2009.

She was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she was unfit to touch the water bowl.

A few days later the women went to a local cleric and put forward the blasphemy allegations.

Over a dozen religious clerics — including Qari Saleem who brought forward the initial complaint against Bibi — were present at the court Thursday.

“We will soon distribute sweets among our Muslim brothers for today's verdict, it's a victory of Islam,” Saleem told AFP outside the courtroom as the clerics congratulated each other and chanted religious slogans.

Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws have attracted criticism from rights groups, who say they are frequently misused to settle personal scores.

Lawyers who defend people accused of blasphemy — and judges seen as lenient — also risk being accused of the crime themselves and regularly face intimidation.

Last month a prison guard at the notorious Adiala jail in Rawalpindi shot and wounded a 70-year-old Scottish man with a history of mental illness who is on death row for blasphemy.

The jail also houses Mumtaz Qadri, the former bodyguard of governor Taseer who gunned him down in an Islamabad market place. He was given a death sentence but heralded by some as a hero for killing Taseer.

Blasphemy carries the death penalty, though Pakistan has had a de facto moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008. Only one person has been executed since then, a soldier convicted by a court martial and hanged in November 2012.

Opinion

Politics of the budget
Updated 12 Jun 2021

Politics of the budget

Govt wants to provide its disillusioned, disappointed voters the gratification they have been denied since the PTI came to power.
Federal features
12 Jun 2021

Federal features

At the core of the concept of federalism is sharing of power...
Missing gender
12 Jun 2021

Missing gender

Censorship in science raises many questions....
Learning and follow-up
Updated 11 Jun 2021

Learning and follow-up

Creating learning and feedback loops is important to reduce accidents, but this aspect remains missing in most organisations.

Editorial

12 Jun 2021

Feel-good budget

WE have been here before. Every time a government gets some fiscal space it immediately shifts gears to growth,...
Rep Omar’s tweet
Updated 12 Jun 2021

Rep Omar’s tweet

Over the last several decades, America has been instrumental in destabilising a number of Muslim states.
12 Jun 2021

Poor health indicators

IF the coronavirus has taught the world anything, it is that the old maxim ‘health is wealth’ is true. Though...
Changing course
11 Jun 2021

Changing course

Tarin says govt, IMF want sustainable economic growth, but both disagree on the path Islamabad must take to attain the objective.
11 Jun 2021

Political bartering

IN what appears to be a continuation of the unsavoury wheeling and dealing that is characteristic of Senate...
11 Jun 2021

Baghlan massacre

FEARS that Afghanistan will plunge into a torrid whirlpool of violence once all Western troops leave in September...