Court could reverse Christian’s ‘blasphemy’ charge

By Art Moore

Asia Bibi
Asia Bibi

Pakistan’s Supreme Court next Tuesday will review a petition by radical Muslims to overturn the acquittal of Christian mother Asia Bibi.

The review is part of a deal the government struck with Muslim extremists who have threatened to kill Bibi, the judges who acquitted her and any of her supporters. Pakistan agreed to keep her in the country until the high court reviews the petition against her Oct. 31 acquittal.

If the court rejects the petition, she will be allowed to leave Pakistan, reported the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

The acquittal sparked three days of mass protests calling for her death, led by the radical Muslim party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan. The protests stopped only after the government agreed to keep her in the country and not oppose the filing of any review petitions against the Supreme Court judgement.

Bibi was on death row for eight years after her conviction in 2010 under section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code, which punishes blasphemy against Islam’s prophet. She was sentenced to execution by hanging.

Her problems began when Muslim co-workers refused to drink water from a cup from which she had taken a sip and demanded she convert to Islam. Her refusal prompted a mob to later allege she had insulted Muhammad.

The Supreme Court ruled that the basis of the blasphemy charge was a “concocted” story and overturned the guilty verdict.

After her release from Multan, Pakistan’s women prison on Nov. 7, Bibi was flown to Islamabad and taken to an undisclosed place amid tight security, Dawn reported.

A three-member bench will hear the review petition filed by Qari Muhammad Salaam, a local cleric who lodged the original blasphemy complaint in 2009.

The petition contends the Supreme Court’s acquittal 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.”

The court is also asked to consider “the nature of the case” and alleged technical faults.

Asylum request

Following her acquittal and the death threats, Bibi’s supporters asked the United States to grant her asylum after she apparently was rejected by Britain.

As WND reported, an advocate for Bibi in the United Kingdom said the British government turned her down because her entry would cause unrest among Muslims and pose a security threat to British embassies in the Muslim world.

The White House and the American Center for Law and Justice, which fought for Bibi’s freedom for more than four years, have declined to comment regarding Bibi’s asylum appeal. ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, President Trump’s personal lawyer, was a key advocate for American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was released from a Turkish prison last month.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has said that the mission “continues to follow the case closely.”

The Trump administration, wrote M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy in a tweet, “has an opportunity to not only do what’s right and humane for Asia Bibi but change the immigration narrative re dissidents.”

Ayan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born critic of Islam known as an advocate for the rights of Muslim women, tweeted, “If Britain won’t offer Asia Bibi asylum, Trump should.”

‘Appeasement only provides oxygen’

Bibi’s lawyer Saif Mulook has left Pakistan, fearing for his life. Ashiq Masih, Bibi’s husband, who is in Britain, released a video message saying he feared for his family’s safety.

While no one has been executed by the Pakistani government for blasphemy, at least 65 people accused of the “crime” have been murdered by Muslim vigilantes since 1990.

CNS News noted that since 2006, the government has engaged in various agreements to appease the Islamic party TLP that have ended in failure, including withdrawing troops from certain areas, pardoning terrorists and allowing Shariah, or Islamic law, zones.

Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association said he was not surprised the Pakistani government “has caved in to extremists – this is a commonly recurring socio-political trend in Pakistan.”

“Politicians have historically been hijacked by either the extremist groups within the nation or the military, this situation is simply the status quo as far as I am concerned,” he said.

In a column in the Karachi daily Dawn, security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana wrote: “State appeasement only provides oxygen to extremist groups, increasing their bargaining power.”

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