A day after religio-political parties criticised and threatened the judiciary following the top court's acquittal of Aasia Bibi on blasphemy charges, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar asked how the court could punish someone if the charges against them could not be proven.
"I and the bench [members] are all lovers of the Prophet (peace be upon him)," CJP Nisar commented during the hearing of a separate case on Thursday.
Last night, following the sharp reaction from Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) after Aasia Bibi's acquittal, Prime Minister Imran Khan had regretted that the demonstrators had termed the chief justice “liable to be killed”.
Declaring that the elements inciting people against the judiciary and army just to enlarge their vote bank were not serving the cause of Islam, the premier had warned the groups that had mounted protests to desist from confronting the state.
"We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for the Prophet's (PBUH) honour. But we are not judges only for Muslims," Justice Nisar asserted. "If there is no proof against someone, how can we punish them?"
"We began our judgement with the first kalma. We do not love the Prophet (PBUH) any less than anyone else. We have judges on our bench who are always reciting the Durood Sharif. Our faith is incomplete without our faith in our Prophet (PBUH)," he said.
Justice Nisar said that the judgement had also been written in Urdu so that ordinary citizens could read it and understand it.
"I have not seen God, but I have learned to recognise Him through the Prophet's (PBUH) guidance," he added.
"Will every person now have to provide proof of their faith?" he asked.
In a landmark judgement, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the death sentence of Christian woman Aasia Bibi and ordered her immediate release from jail after around eight years.
“This appeal is allowed, the judgements of the [Lahore] high court as well as the trial court are reversed and consequently the conviction as also the sentence of death awarded to the appellant is set aside and she is acquitted of the charge,” announced CJP Nisar, who headed the bench that had reserved its ruling on her appeal on Oct 8.
Aasia Bibi, a mother of five, was awarded capital punishment by a trial court in November 2010 for committing alleged blasphemy during an altercation with a Muslim woman in Sheikhupura over a glass of water in June 2009. The Lahore High Court upheld the decision of the trial court in its October 2014 ruling, which was finally reversed by the Supreme Court after hearing her appeal.
“Keeping in mind the evidence produced by the prosecution against the alleged blasphemy committed by the appellant, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt,” the chief justice observed in the SC's judgement.
The verdict, which begins with Qalma-i-Shahadat, concludes with a Hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH): “Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgement.”
The entire judgement is punctuated with verses from the Holy Quran and sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
“It is a well settled principle of law that one who makes an assertion has to prove it,” wrote the chief justice. Thus, the onus rested on the prosecution to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt throughout the trial.