Aasia Bibi’s court hearing postponed again

Once again Aasia Bibi’s court hearing has been postponed. Aasia has been death row since 2010 and during the recent months her court hearing has been postponed three times. Her last hearing was due on April 14 but CLAAS lawyers were told that her case had been moved to Islamabad division Bench, and a date was set for May 27.

But now we have been informed that her court hearing has been cancelled again and no new date has been set.

Aasia Bibi was charged under the blasphemy law in 2009 for insulting the prophet Mohammad but she denies the charges which were brought against her by her colleagues working in the farms.

During the recent months several cases have been registered, while Rashid Rehman, a lawyer defending blasphemy victim Junaid Hafeez was killed in his office.

He had earlier been threatened in the presence of judge for not stopping defending Hafeez, a lecturer of Bahauddin Zakariya university.

In another case 68 lawyers were charged under blasphemy law, while a 65-year-old man charged under the blasphemy law was killed by a teenager while being held in police custody.

Around two weeks ago the owner of Pakistani channel GEO TV, and the host of Utho Jago Pakistan, Dr Shaista Lodhi, and her guests on the show were charged under the blasphemy law. Dr Shaista has apologised but there is dispute among the Ulemas about whether she should be pardoned.

As this news was being written I received an email from my Ahmadi friend that minority member Dr. Mehdi Ali, a cardiac surgeon from Ohio, USA, who was volunteering in Pakistan, had been killed.

The chief justice of Pakistan during a recent court hearing of the suo motu case of the bomb blast in a Peshawar church last year, where at least 85 Christians were killed, and more than 100 were injured, remarked that according to the Pakistan Penal Code’s (PPC) Article 295 “offence” against any religion falls under the blasphemy law.

Chief Justice Jillani said that the apex court would “share the grievances of the minorities” and can direct establishment of a “new force” to safeguard the minorities”.

He also expressed his anger over the non-registration of cases against those involved in setting temples ablaze in Sindh. Justice Jillani told the minorities’ representatives that due to the importance of the case the apex court would appoint amicus curiae – Munir A Malik, Khawaja Haris and Hassan Aurangzaib – who would assist the court in the matter without charging any fee.

He directed the minorities’ representatives to submit a report which should indicate sections where the material has been used to abuse the minorities, and identify areas where law enforcing agencies failed to secure their life and property.

Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK, has welcomed the chief justice’s concern and said it must be of some comfort to the minorities, undoubtedly raising their hopes and helping to restore their faith in the courts.

It is widely believed that blasphemy laws not only protect the veneration of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) Islamic personage, etc but justice Jillani has reinterpreted the law and nobody can deviate from it.

Mr Saeed said: “This interpretation can be helpful to stop further attacks and fire being set to churches and temples. It is now up to Christian political and religious leadership as to how they take this interpretation and what course of action they take to protect their places of worship.

“Since the chief justice seems sincere in providing justice to the minorities it is time for the minorities to use this opportunity wisely.”

He further said the misuse of the blasphemy law is dangerously on the increase and creating chaos in the country. Since the Chief justice has realised the perils of the blasphemy law, the Pakistani government should also recognize the situation, bring changes and introduce safeguards immediately.