SC to hear review petition against Aasia Bibi's acquittal on Jan 29

Updated January 24, 2019

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Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will head the three-judge bench set to hear the petition. — File
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will head the three-judge bench set to hear the petition. — File

The Supreme Court on Thursday fixed for hearing a review petition over the court's decision to overturn Aasia Bibi's conviction in a blasphemy case.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will head the three-member bench, comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, that will hear the review petition — filed by Qari Muhammad Salaam — next week on Tuesday.

On October 30, 2018, the apex court had acquitted Aasia, a Christian mother condemned to death on blasphemy charges, accepting her appeal against her sentencing. "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 then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar had written in the verdict.

The acquittal had sparked three-day-long mass protests led by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

The protests were called off after the religio-political party reached an agreement with the government, the foremost condition of which was the placement of Aasia's name on the Exit Control List. The government, however, had only agreed to "initiate the legal process" to place her name on the list, while also agreeing that it would not oppose any review petitions being filed against the SC judgement.

After her release from Multan’s women prison on November 7, Aasia Bibi was flown to Islamabad onboard a special aircraft. She was then taken to an undisclosed place amid tight security. Authorities have remained tightlipped about her movement and whereabouts for security reasons.

The petition

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 Supreme Court of Pakistan'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 Supreme Court of Pakistan 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 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.