|Asia Bibi v. The State|
|Court||Supreme Court of Pakistan|
|Appealed from||Court of Session at Sheikhapura|
|Appealed to|| Lahore High Court |
(rejected 16 October 2014)
|Subsequent action(s)|| Supreme Court of Pakistan |
Judgement of Courts below reversed.
|Decision by||Mian Saqib Nisar|
|Concurrence||Asif Saeed Khosa|
The Asia Bibi blasphemy case involves Pakistani Christian woman Aasiya Noreen (Urdu : آسیہ نورین – Āsiyaah Naurīn [ˈɑːsiɑː nɔːˈriːn] , born c. 1971; commonly known as آسیہ بی بیĀsia Bibī ), who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her based on insufficient evidence, though she was not allowed to leave Pakistan until the verdict was reviewed on 29 January 2019.
Christians make up one of the two largest (non-Muslim) religious minorities in Pakistan, along with Hindus. The total number of Christians in Pakistan was estimated at 2.5 million in 2005, or 1.6% of the population. Of these, approximately half are Catholic and half Protestant.
Bibi means Miss in Hindi-Urdu and Bengali and is frequently used as a respectful title for women in South Asia when added to the given name.
Blasphemy in Islam is impious utterance or action concerning God, "Blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and his companions ", insulting an angel or to deny the prophethood of one of the Islamic prophets. The Quran admonishes blasphemy, but does not specify any worldly punishment for blasphemy. The hadiths, which are another source of Sharia, suggest various punishments for blasphemy, which may include death. However, it has been argued that the death penalty applies only to cases where there is treason involved that may seriously harm the Muslim community, especially during times of war. Different traditional schools of jurisprudence prescribe different punishment for blasphemy, depending on whether the blasphemer is Muslim or non-Muslim, a man or a woman. In the modern Muslim world, the laws pertaining to blasphemy vary by country, and some countries prescribe punishments consisting of fines, imprisonment, flogging, hanging, or beheading. Blasphemy laws were rarely enforced in pre-modern Islamic societies, but in the modern era some states and radical groups have used charges of blasphemy in an effort to burnish their religious credentials and gain popular support at the expense of liberal Muslim intellectuals and religious minorities. In recent years, accusations of blasphemy against Islam have sparked international controversies and played part in incidents of mob violence and assassinations of prominent figures.
In June 2009, Noreen was accused of blasphemy after an argument with co-workers while harvesting berries. 500,000 Pakistani rupee s to anyone who would kill her.She was subsequently arrested and imprisoned. In November 2010, a Sheikhupura judge sentenced her to death by hanging. The verdict was upheld by Lahore High Court and received worldwide attention. Various petitions for her release were created by organisations aiding persecuted Christians such as Voice of the Martyrs, including one that received 400,000 signatures, and Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis called for the charges to be dismissed. She received less sympathy from her neighbors and Islamic religious leaders in the country, some of whom adamantly called for her to be executed. Minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer were both assassinated for advocating on her behalf and opposing the blasphemy laws. Noreen's family went into hiding after receiving death threats, some of which threatened to kill Noreen if released from prison. Muslim cleric Maulana Yousaf Qureshi announced a bounty of
Shekhupura is a city the Pakistani province of Punjab. Founded by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir in 1607, Sheikhupura is now the 17th largest city in Pakistan, and is the headquarters of Sheikhupura District. The city is an industrial center, and satellite town, located about 38 km northwest of Lahore.
The Lahore High Court is based in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. It was established as a high court on 21 March 1919. The Lahore High Court has jurisdiction over Punjab. The High Court's principal seat is in Lahore, but there are benches in three other Pakistani cities: Rawalpindi, Multan and Bahawalpur. A proposal was sent by lawyers to set up new high court benches in Faisalabad, Sialkot, D.G.Khan and Gujranwala divisions but full court of Lahore High Court turned down this request.
The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend the human rights of persecuted Christians. The US office was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who himself spent fourteen years in Communist prison in Romania for his faith in Christ. The US organization today is a $50 million ministry providing practical and spiritual assistance to persecuted Christians in 68 countries. In 2016, VOM-USA completed more than 1,500 ministry projects, providing help to more than 5 million people.
On 31 October 2018, the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Noreenciting "material contradictions and inconsistent statements of the witnesses" which "cast a shadow of doubt on the prosecution's version of facts." The decision sparked protests headed by Islamist parties in major cities of the country, but was praised by human rights groups and those advocating on behalf of Christian minorities, such as International Christian Concern, Open Doors, and Aid to the Church in Need.
Islamism is a concept whose meaning has been debated in both public and academic contexts. The term can refer to diverse forms of social and political activism advocating that public and political life should be guided by Islamic principles or more specifically to movements which call for full implementation of sharia. It is commonly used interchangeably with the terms political Islam or Islamic fundamentalism. In academic usage, the term Islamism does not specify what vision of "Islamic order" or sharia are being advocated, or how their advocates intend to bring them about. In Western mass media it tends to refer to groups whose aim is to establish a sharia-based Islamic state, often with implication of violent tactics and human rights violations, and has acquired connotations of political extremism. In the Muslim world, the term has positive connotations among its proponents.
International Christian Concern (ICC) is an ecumenical, non-governmental, non-partisan Christian organization, located in Washington, DC, whose concern is the human rights of Christians and religious minorities. Its mission is to help religious minorities from all forms of persecution through assistance, advocacy, and awareness.
Open Doors is a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians in over 70 countries where, J.G. Marking has said, Christianity is socially or legally discouraged or oppressed. They work with local partners to distribute Bibles and Christian literature, give discipleship training and provide practical support, such as emergency relief aid. Open Doors stated aims are to raise awareness of global persecution, mobilising prayer, support and action among Christians from around the world. It is based in Ermelo, The Netherlands. Open Doors is also a member of the Forum of Bible Agencies International.
On 2 November 2018 however, the Government of Pakistan signed an agreement with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik political party (TLP), which was leading the protests; this agreement barred Asia Bibi from leaving the country.This agreement between the Government of Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Labbaik has led to "allegations [that] the government was capitulating to extremists". The governments of Italy, Canada, and other Western countries, are currently working to help Asia Bibi leave Pakistan. On 7 November 2018, Asia Bibi was released from the New Jail for Women in Multan. However, by Christmas, Asia Bibi was reported to have spent Christmas Day in some sort of custody.
The Government of Pakistan is a federal government established by the Constitution of Pakistan as a constituted governing authority of the four provinces of a proclaimed and established by the parliamentary democratic republic, constitutionally called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan is a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan. The party was founded by preacher Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.
On 29 January 2019, a petition requesting an appeal against the court's decision to acquit Asia Bibi was rejected, "lifting the last legal hurdle in the case and paving the way for her to leave the country."On 11 April 2019, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that a "complication" has delayed the departure of Asia Bibi from the country.
Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is a Pakistani politician and former international cricketer who is the 22nd and incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is also the founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Previously, he was a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan from 2002 to 2007, and again from 2013 to 2018.
The blasphemy law in Pakistan has resulted in the extrajudicial killings, incited by accusations, of over 60 people, has been blamed for dozens of communal attacks that have taken place against religious minorities on the pretext of blasphemy,and has been used by individuals as a tool for revenge against other people. Noreen was the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death for blasphemy, and would have been the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy under the current law.
The Pakistan Penal Code, the main criminal code of Pakistan, punishes blasphemy against any recognized religion, providing penalties ranging from a fine to death. From 1967 to 2014, over 1,300 people have been accused of blasphemy, with Muslims constituting most of those accused.
Communalism is a term used in South Asia to denote attempts to construct religious or ethnic identity, incite strife between people identified as different communities, and to stimulate communal violence between those groups. It derives from history, differences in beliefs, and tensions between the communities.
Aasiya Noreen was born and raised in Ittan Wali, a small, rural village in the Sheikhupura District of Punjab, Pakistan,thirty miles outside of Lahore. Poor Christians in the district, and elsewhere in Pakistan, often have lower-class occupations such as cleaning and sweeping. Noreen, who is a Roman Catholic, worked as a farmhand in Sheikhupura to support her family. She married Ashiq Masih, a brick laborer who had three children from a previous marriage, and had two children with him. Noreen and her family were the only Christians in the village. Before her incarceration, she had been repeatedly urged by her fellow workers to convert to Islam.
In June 2009, Noreen was harvesting falsa berries with a group of other women farmhands in a field in Sheikhupura.She was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well; she complied but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well. A neighbor of Noreen, Musarat, who had been involved in a running feud with Noreen's family about some property damage, saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same utensil from which Muslims drink, and that some of the other workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian, referring to the caste system in Pakistan. Noreen recounts that when they made derogatory statements about Christianity and demanded that she convert to Islam, she responded, "I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?" An argument ensued.
A mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was taken away by the police.The police initiated an investigation about her remarks, resulting in her arrest under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
In an interview with CNN, local police officer Muhammad Ilyas claimed that Noreen said that "the Quran is fake and your prophet remained in bed for one month before his death because he had worms in his ears and mouth. He married Khadija just for money and after looting her kicked her out of the house".Village Imam Qari Muhammad Salim, to whom Noreen's coworkers reported the alleged blasphemy, claimed that Noreen confessed to him and apologized. On the other hand, the Asian Human Rights Commission published a letter that stated:
Five days after the incident, a local Muslim leader, Qari Salem, jumped into the matter and pressured some people in the area to claim that she committed blasphemy. When finding no way to get Ms. Bibi to confess, Salem used the loudspeakers of the mosque, as other Muslim leaders usually do in the cases of alleged blasphemy acts, to spread the news of blasphemy and instigate the people of the locality to punish the alleged blasphemer. The people of the locality beat her severely in the presence of her children.
She was subsequently imprisoned for over a year before being formally charged.
Noreen denied that she had committed blasphemy and said that she had been accused by her neighbor to "settle an old score". [ clarification needed ] was imposed.In November 2010, Muhammed Naveed Iqbal, a judge at the court of Sheikhupura, Punjab, sentenced her to death by hanging. Additionally, a fine of the equivalent of $1,100
With the verdict, she became the first woman condemned to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.Noreen described the day of her sentencing as follows:
I cried alone, putting my head in my hands. I can no longer bear the sight of people full of hatred, applauding the killing of a poor farm worker. I no longer see them, but I still hear them, the crowd who gave the judge a standing ovation, saying: "Kill her, kill her! Allahu Akbar!" The court house is invaded by a euphoric horde who break down the doors, chanting: "Vengeance for the holy prophet. Allah is great!" I was then thrown like an old rubbish sack into the van... I had lost all humanity in their eyes.
Noreen's husband, Ashiq Masih, 51 years old at the time,announced that he planned to appeal the verdict, which has to be upheld by the Lahore High Court. A month later, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab who investigated the affair for the President Asif Ali Zardari, stated that Noreen would most likely be pardoned if the High Court did not suspend the sentence. Zardari was poised to grant pardon, but the High Court issued a stay order against potential Presidential pardon, which remains in force to date. Court transcripts show numerous inconsistencies in the evidence presented and reporters say they dare not repeat Bibi's testimony lest they also be accused of blasphemy.
Noreen was put in solitary confinement in an 8-by-10-foot (2.4 m × 3.0 m) cell without windows at the Lahore prison. Before his assassination, Taseer visited her at the jail several times with his wife, Aamna, and daughter, Shehrbano, though Pakistani court officials later ruled that she could be visited only by her husband and lawyer. Khalid Sheikh, the prison superintendent, said that while he wanted her to be treated "like any other prisoner", she had to be kept away from other inmates for her own well-being, as other individuals accused of blasphemy had been killed while in prison. The Masihi Foundation, a human rights group, described her physical condition as "very frail", and her health was reported to be in decline due to poor living conditions at the jail. She has also been threatened by other inmates and subjected to physical abuse from prison guards.
According to Human Rights Watch, Noreen's situation is not unusual.Though no one has been executed for blasphemy yet in Pakistan, the accused often remain imprisoned for a long time while the case is being processed. In May 2014, Noreen's appeal hearing was delayed for the fifth time.
Noreen's conviction led to divided opinions on the blasphemy laws and drew strong reactions from the public. Pakistani Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan said, "The law creates this legal infrastructure which is then used in various informal ways to intimidate, coerce, harass and persecute."He further described the law as "discriminatory and abusive". Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Pakistan's Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti both publicly supported Noreen, with the latter saying, "I will go to every knock for justice on her behalf and I will take all steps for her protection." She also received support from Pakistani political scientist Rasul Baksh Rais and local priest Samson Dilawar. The imprisonment of Noreen left Christians and other minorities in Pakistan feeling vulnerable, and liberal Muslims were also unnerved by her sentencing.
The general population was less sympathetic towards Noreen. Several signs were erected in Sheikhupura and other rural areas declaring support for the blasphemy laws, including one that called for Noreen to be beheaded. ₨500000 (US$4,700) Pakistani rupee bounty to anyone who would kill her. One survey reported that around 10 million Pakistanis had said that they would be willing to personally kill her out of either religious conviction or for the reward. The village mosque in Ittan Wali was reportedly indifferent towards Noreen's plight; its imam, who helped register the case against her, Qari Mohammed Salim, stated that he had wept for joy on learning that she had been sentenced to death and threatened that some people would "take the law into their own hands" should she be pardoned or released. However, journalist Julie McCarthy suggested that the country's "more peaceful majority views" had been overshadowed by the more vocal fundamentalists.Mohammad Saleem, a member of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan party, organized a demonstration in Rawalpindi and led a small crowd chanting, "Hang her, hang her." In December 2010, a month after Noreen's conviction, Maulana Yousaf Qureshi, the Muslim cleric of the Mohabaat Khan Mosque in Peshawar, announced a
Noreen's family has received threats and has gone into hiding.Ashiq, her husband, stated that he was afraid to let their children go outside. He also expressed concern about how Noreen would be kept safe should she be released, saying, "No one will let her live. The mullahs are saying they will kill her when she comes out." Her family declined to leave the country while she remained in prison, but Italy, France, and Spain all offered to grant her and her family asylum in the event of her release.
On 4 January 2011, at Kohsar Market of Islamabad, governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri, a 26-year-old member of his security team, because of his defence of Noreen and opposition to the blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri was sentenced to death for the assassination and hanged on 29 February 2016. Taseer was outspoken in his criticism of the law and the verdict in Noreen's case. The next day, thousands turned up for the governor's funeral in Lahore in spite of warnings by the Taliban and some clerics,while a portion of the Pakistani population also praised Qadri as a hero; thousands of Sunni Muslims rallied in support of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan after the murder, and 500 Barelvi clerics prohibited their followers from sending condolences to the family of Taseer. This resulted in concerns that the public was becoming tolerant of extremists.
Prison officials said that Noreen "wept inconsolably" on learning of Taseer's assassination while repeatedly saying, "That man came here and he sacrificed his life for me."Father Andrew Nisari, a senior Catholic spokesperson in Lahore, described the situation as "utter chaos". Seven months later, in August 2011, Taseer's 28-year-old son, Shahbaz, was kidnapped. Shahbaz Taseer was later found or released in March 2016, and he returned to Lahore on 9 March after five years in captivity.
Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti said that he was first threatened with death in June 2010 when he was told that he would be beheaded if he attempted to change the blasphemy laws. In response, he told reporters that he was "committed to the principle of justice for the people of Pakistan" and willing to die fighting for Noreen's release.On 2 March 2011, Bhatti was shot dead by gunmen who ambushed his car near his residence in Islamabad, presumably because of his position on the blasphemy laws. He had been the only Christian member of Pakistan's cabinet.
Noreen's death sentence drew international outrageand strong condemnation from non-governmental organizations defending persecuted Christians, as well as human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch who saw the blasphemy laws as a form of religious persecution and called for them to be abolished. Pope Benedict XVI publicly called for clemency for Noreen. In his statement, he described his "spiritual closeness" with Noreen and urged that the "human dignity and fundamental rights of everyone in similar situations" be respected.
Her case also achieved extensive media coverage, and American journalist John L. Allen, Jr. wrote that she is "almost certainly the most famous illiterate Punjabi farm worker and mother of five on the planet".According to Allen, she has become a celebrity among Christian activists, an unusual instance when cases of discrimination against Christian minorities typically receive little attention in the press. A number of campaigns have been organized to protest her imprisonment through online petitions, Twitter trends, and concerts. Ooberfuse, a Christian pop band based in the United Kingdom collaborated with the British Pakistani Christian Association, and released a song titled "Free Asia Bibi" with a music video that included "a disturbing visual portrayal of the squalid prison conditions where Bibi is being held". She has also been the subject of books and documentaries.
One petition created by the Voice of the Martyrs, an organisation aiding persecuted Christians, received over 400,000 signatures from individuals from over 100 countries.Another petition, organised by the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), obtained over 200,000 signatures and called for America's aid to Pakistan (said to be cumulatively eight billion dollars) to stop whilst persecution of minorities is allowed in that country.
Umar Al-Qadri, an Islamic cleric in Ireland, called for Noreen's release and stated he would back organisations wishing the same, holding that, "Asia Bibi is a case where the lady is denying that she committed blasphemy, and based on that it would be sufficient for the court to release her, but unfortunately that particular law, the blasphemy law in Pakistan, does not represent the true Islamic teaching".
On 16 October 2014, the Lahore High Court dismissed Noreen's appeal and upheld her death sentence.On 20 November 2014, her husband appealed to the President of Pakistan for clemency. On 24 November 2014, her lawyer appealed to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
On 22 July 2015, the Supreme Court suspended Bibi's death sentence for the duration of the appeals process.In November 2015, Bibi's lead attorney, Naeem Shakir, announced that, after two postponements in 2015, the Supreme Court would hear an appeal in Bibi's case on 26 March 2016. The hearing was rescheduled for 13 October 2016, but on that morning when it was the turn of the case "Asia Bibi against the state", one of the three members of the bench of judges of that section – Iqbal Hameedur Rehman – refused to be part of the bench, which led to the postponement of the hearing to an undetermined date. The Judge later resigned in a handwritten letter addressed to Mamnoon Hussain, the President of Pakistan, without stating any specific reasons for his resignation. On 26 April 2017, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar declined a request for the early hearing of the case of Asia Bibi in the first week of June made by her lawyer Saiful Malook.
On 8 October 2018, a three-judge bench comprising CJP Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam reserved its judgement on the final legal appeal.On 31 October 2018, the Supreme Court in a 56-page detailed judgement authored by CJP Nisar, with a separate concurrent opinion note from Justice Khosa, acquitted Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges after accepting her 2015 appeal against her sentence. The court also ruled that "she was free to go, if not wanted in connection with any other case". In his verdict, Judge Asif Saeed Khan Khosa noted:
The statements made by Muhammad Idrees (CW1) and Muhammad Amin Bukhari, SP (Investigation) (PW6) before the trial court revealed that the alleged blasphemy had been committed by the Christian appellant after her Muslim co-workers had insulted the appellant's religion and had injured her religious sensibilities only because she believed in and was a follower of Jesus Christ. According to the Holy Qur'an a Muslim's faith is not complete till he believes in all the Holy Prophets and Messengers of Almighty Allah including Jesus Christ (Isa son of Maryam) (Peace Be Upon Him) and all the revealed Holy Books of Almighty Allah including the Holy Bible. From that perspective insulting the appellant's religion by her Muslim co-workers was no less blasphemous. — Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan
The final judgment said that one of Noreen's accusers violated the Ashtiname of Muhammad, a "covenant made by Muhammad with Christians in the seventh century but still valid today".Judge Khosa also stated that the two women who made accusations against Noreen "had no regard for the truth" and that the claim that she blasphemed Muhammad in public was a "concoction incarnate". The Supreme Court of Pakistan's ruling cited "material contradictions and inconsistent statements of the witnesses" that "cast a shadow of doubt on the prosecution's version of facts."
Asia Noreen was reading the Christian Bible when she heard the news, upon which exclaimed "I can't believe what I am hearing, will I go out now? Will they let me out, really? ... I just don't know what to say, I am very happy, I can't believe it."Noreen's daughter Eisham Ashiq, said that the news of the acquittal was "the most wonderful moment in my life ... I want to hug my mother and then celebrate with my family. I am grateful to God for listening to our prayers."
In response to the verdict, Islamist groups protested in the streets of Pakistan, "blocking roads and damaging infrastructure".The Supreme Court decision sparked protests in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar and Multan. JUI-F chief Fazal-ur-Rehman called for "peaceful" protests stating that Bibi's release was "not acceptable at any cost". Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and Jamaat-i-Ahle Hadees also called for protests. Protesters belonging to the TLP party said traffic will "remain blocked until Asia Bibi is hanged." and Islamabad's main highway was blocked by "approximately a thousand club-wielding demonstrators". Muhammad Afzal Qadri, a TLP co-founder, Afzal Qadri also called for the death of the three Supreme Court justices involved in hearing Bibi's appeal, stating "The Chief Justice and two others deserve to be killed ... Either their security guards, their drivers, or their chefs should kill them." The Red Zone of Islamabad was sealed off from the public in order to keep protesters away, with paramilitary forces being deployed to this end. Prime Minister Imran Khan in a televised address to the nation on the Asia Bibi verdict, issued a stark warning to the groups that were agitating against the decision. He concluded his address stating, "do not take the state to a point where it has no option but to take action". On 1 November, the National Highways and Motorway Police advised commuters to "refrain from travelling on motorways and national highways" on account of "the law & order situation across the country". Christian schools in Lahore "closed indefinitely" for safety reasons following the protests. The government of Pakistan also shut down mobile phone networks on 2 November.
Before the announcement of the acquittal on 31 October, Christians in Pakistan fasted and prayed.Cardinal Joseph Coutts, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Karachi, prayed that "there may not be a violent reaction from the extremists".
Saif-ul-Mulook, the lawyer who defended Asia Noreen, states that "his life has not been the same since; he rarely socialises, lives in a constant state of hypervigilance and has been inundated with threats."The South China Morning Post and Christian Today reported that he is now an "easy target" for extremists. On 3 November 2018, he was reported as "having fled" the country, to the Netherlands. Saif-ul-Mulook maintains that the United Nations "kept me for three days and then put me on a plane against my wishes" as he "refused to leave the country without ensuring that his client was out of prison."
Religious hardliners petitioned to overturn the acquittal.
The decision was praised by human rights groups and organizations advocating for persecuted Christians, such as International Christian Concern, Open Doors, and Aid to the Church in Need.CEO of Open Doors David Curry, said: "We are breathing a sigh of relief today ... as these charges stemmed from her Christian identity as well as false accusations against her. We are hopeful that Pakistan will now take additional steps to offer religious freedom and basic human rights throughout the country." Omar Waraich, Amnesty International's Deputy South Asia Director, described the ruling as a "landmark verdict". Neville Kyrke-Smith of Aid to the Church in Need proclaimed with respect to Asia Noreen's acquittal: "Today is like the dawn of new hope for oppressed minorities." The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a statement on 1 November welcoming the acquittal, stating that "From a human rights perspective, the Supreme Court's detailed judgment underlines several of the most problematic aspects of applying the blasphemy laws. The presumption of innocence is too easily buried by moral outrage, which invariably pits the vulnerable and underprivileged against those in majority."
Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, "received with joy" news of the acquittal, stating: "We celebrate her acquittal and release together with her, her family and community ... The WCC has repeatedly called for justice for Asia Bibi, convicted 8 years ago on charges resulting from a village argument in which she was accused by her neighbours of blasphemy. ... WCC therefore appeals once again to the Government of Pakistan to review its blasphemy laws, to curb their abuse, and to eliminate discriminatory bias against religious minorities."
The European branch of the American Center for Law and Justice lauded the ruling as well, and advocated the "abolition of the crime of blasphemy in Pakistan".
Several countries, including France and Spain, have offered Asia Noreen asylum.
On 2 November 2018, the Government of Pakistan under the administration of Imran Khan and the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik political party, which encouraged the protests against Asia Bibi, came to an agreement that barred Asia Bibi from leaving the country, in addition to releasing Tehreek-e-Labbaik protesters.Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, the religious affairs minister, and Muhammad Basharat Raja, Punjab's minister for law, signed the agreement on behalf of the government. The deal includes expediting a motion in the court to place Asia Noreen on Pakistan's no fly list, known officially as the Exit Control List (ECL). Pakistani authorities will not release Asia Noreen until the "Supreme Court makes a final review of its verdict" as "Ghulam Mustafa, the lawyer representing a provincial cleric in Punjab who had filed the initial blasphemy charges against Bibi, petitioned the Supreme Court requesting that the judges review her acquittal." Similar reviews have taken years to process. The TLP agreed to end its three-day protest sit-ins across the country and its leaders asked the protesters to disperse peacefully.
A plane from the United Kingdom reportedly arrived to pick up Asia Noreen after her acquittal but returned without her, as the Pakistani government currently still has her under detention as a result of the agreement with Tehreek-e-Labbaik.
Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), stated that "Placing Asia Bibi on the ECL is like signing her death warrant".
This agreement between the Government of Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Labbaik has led to "allegations [that] the government was capitulating to extremists".Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry responded to these allegations, saying that "We had two options: either to use force, and when you use force people can be killed. That is not something a state should do... We tried negotiations and (in) negotiations you take something and you leave something."
Asia Noreen's lawyer Saif-ul-Mulook called the agreement between the Government of Pakistan and the Islamists "painful", stating that "They cannot even implement an order of the country's highest court".Feeling that his life was threatened, Mulook fled to Europe in order "to stay alive as I still have to fight the legal battle for Asia Bibi." BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry likewise stated that "I am not surprised that Imran Khan's regime has caved in to extremists". Jemima Goldsmith, an ex-wife of Imran Khan, similarly "said that Pakistan's government caved in to extremist demands to bar Asia Bibi from leaving the country", opining "Not the Naya Pakistan we'd hoped for. 3 days after a defiant & brave speech defending the judiciary, Pakistan's gov caves in to extremist demands to bar Asia Bibi from leaving Pakistan, after she was acquitted of blasphemy- effectively signing her death warrant."
Ashiq Masih, the husband of Asia Noreen, appealed to President of the United States Donald Trump, as well as Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, to "help the family leave the country" and grant them asylum.He told the charity Aid to the Church in Need, an organisation that aids persecuted Christians: "Help us get out of Pakistan. We are extremely worried because our lives are in danger. We no longer have even anything to eat, because we cannot leave the house to buy food".
On 7 November 2018, a release order arrived at New Jail for Women in which Asia Bibi was incarcerated at in Multan.Local news reported that she had been flown to PAF Base Nur Khan and would depart the country on a charter plane to the Netherlands. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the media reports that Asia Bibi had left Pakistan, stating that she was "in a safe place in Pakistan".
Hafiz Shahbaz Attari of the Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), upon hearing the news, said that TLP members would gather in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and try to prevent her departure.Another TLP leader Afzal Qadri, stated that "officials told the group that Bibi would not be allowed to leave until the Supreme Court rules on their appeal of her acquittal".
British Member of Parliament Mike Gapes, then of the Labour and Co-operative Party, suggested in November 2018 that the UK should reassess their relationship with Pakistan,and Rehman Chishti resigned as Britain's trade envoy to Pakistan in the same month, partially in protest to the government's refusal to offer Asia Bibi asylum. US Senator Rand Paul spoke to President Donald Trump about securing asylum for Asia Bibi in that nation.
Asia Bibi was reported to have spent Christmas Day (25 December) 2018 in custody.Joseph Nadeem, the man guarding Noreen's husband and family, said that Islamists had fired at the gate of their home and that they had to move five times in order to evade them.
On 29 January 2019, Pakistan's Supreme Court upheld the acquittal and ruled that she was now free to leave Pakistan, where she was facing death threats, and join members of her family who were (according to unconfirmed reports) already abroad. Violent protests erupted across Pakistan, demanding the execution of the judge and Asia Bibi. While her lawyer, who escaped to Germany, says that Asia is in Canada, others allege that she is being held in a secret location in Islamabad and that it is not clear when she will leave or where she will go.
France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Australia were among the countries who offered asylum to Asia Bibi.
In the Pakistani city of Faizabad, fifty-five people were arrested during a protest of the decision to uphold the Supreme Court's acquittal decision.
On 11 April 2019, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that a "complication" has delayed the departure of Asia Bibi from the country.Human rights campaigner Aman Ullah stated that Asia Bibi remains locked in a single room in which the door only opens during meal times.
French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet 1613748892). Noreen is illiterate, and Tollet was unable to visit her directly due to prison restrictions. She conducted interviews through Noreen's husband, who passed questions and answers between them. Tollet also met other members of Noreen's family, including her children and sister, and had known Shahbaz Bhatti before his assassination.assisted Noreen in writing a memoir titled Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water (2013, ISBN
In 2015, Polish filmmakers, inspired by the memoir, produced the film Uwolnić Asię Bibi (English: Freedom for Asia Bibi).
Asma Jilani Jahangir was a Pakistani human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Jahangir was known for playing a prominent role in the Lawyers' Movement and served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and as a trustee at the International Crisis Group.
Mukhtaran Bibi is a Pakistani woman from the village of Meerwala, in the rural tehsil (county) of Jatoi of the Muzaffargarh District of Pakistan. In June 2002, Mukhtār Mā'ī was the survivor of a gang rape as a form of honour revenge, on the orders of a tribal council of the local Mastoi Baloch clan that was richer and more powerful as opposed to her Tatla clan in that region.
Priyadarshini Mattoo was a 25-year-old law student who was found raped and murdered at her house in New Delhi on 23 January 1996. On 17 October 2006, the Delhi High Court found Santosh Kumar Singh guilty on both counts of rape and murder and on 30 October of the same year sentenced him to death. On 6 October 2010, the Supreme Court of India commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. Santosh Kumar Singh, the son of a Police Inspector-General, had earlier been acquitted by a trial court in 1999, and the High Court decision was widely perceived in India as a landmark reversal. This decision went in favor because the facts were not presented correctly in the lower court.
Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) is an international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in The Hague, Netherlands. GHRD focuses specifically on promoting and protecting human rights in South Asia GHRD places emphasis on those areas and populations of the world where severe and extensive human rights violations of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities have continued unabated over long periods of time, and where structural help and global attention of Governments and international institutions have failed to reach.
Salmaan Taseer was a Pakistani businessman and a liberal politician, who served as the 26th Governor of Punjab from 2008 until his assassination in 2011.
Mr. Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif is a former Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court in Punjab, Pakistan.
Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Academy is an Anti-Ahmadiyya organisation located in Forest Gate, London, United Kingdom. The organization describes itself as leading an awareness campaign against "Qadiani propaganda", a derogative term often used for Ahmadi Muslims. The academy also studies, and publishes on theological concepts such as Khatam an-Nabuwwah, or Seal of the Prophets which in its opinion describes the absolute finality of Prophet Muhammad. The organization is loosely affiliated with similar organizations around the world, particularly with those in Pakistan.
Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, popularly known as Shahbaz Bhatti, was a Pakistani politician and elected member of the National Assembly from 2008. He was the first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs from November 2008 until his assassination on 2 March 2011 in Islamabad and the only Christian in the Cabinet. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for his killing and called him a blasphemer of Muhammad. In March 2016, five years after the death of Shahbaz Bhatti, his cause for beatification was formally opened by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, making him a Servant of God within the Roman Catholic Church.
The Exit Control Lists is a system of border control maintained by the Government of Pakistan under Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, 1981. Those persons on the list are prohibited from leaving Pakistan.
Maryam Nawaz Sharif, also known by her married name as Maryam Safdar is a Pakistani politician who is the daughter of three-time Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and his spouse Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif.
Rape in Pakistan came to international attention after the politically sanctioned rape of Mukhtaran Bibi. The group War Against Rape (WAR) has documented the severity of rape in Pakistan, and the police indifference to it. According to Women's Studies professor Shahla Haeri, rape in Pakistan is "often institutionalized and has the tacit and at times the explicit approval of the state". According to lawyer Asma Jahangir, who was a co-founder of the women's rights group Women's Action Forum, up to seventy-two percent of women in custody in Pakistan are physically or sexually abused.
Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, better known as Mumtaz Qadri, was the assassin of Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab. Qadri was a commando of the Elite Police and, at the time of the assassination, a member of the squad of personal bodyguards assigned to protect Salmaan Taseer. A follower of the Barelvi version of Sunni Islam, he assassinated Taseer on 4 January 2011. He claimed to have killed the Governor because Taseer spoke in defense of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Qadri was convicted by the Islamabad High Court, sentenced to death and hanged in February 2016.
Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water is a book by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet and Aasiya Noreen better known as Asia Bibi. It is about the real life story of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death after being convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court, in 2010 and is in jail in solitary confinement. She was tried after a dispute over drinking water with her Muslim neighbours after she drank water from the same cup as her Muslim neighbours in a rural village in the Sheikhupura District of Punjab, Pakistan in which she was accused of allegedly insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she has denied. The book was dictated by Asia Bibi, an illiterate and mother of five, to her husband from jail. In her book Bibi describes that judge who gave a death sentence received a standing ovation and she had refused convert to Islam stating "I will not convert. I believe in my religion and Jesus Christ."
Khadim Hussain Rizvi is a Pakistani Sunni Barelvi preacher and also the founding chairman of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a religious political party.
The Imran Khan ministry is the current government of Pakistan which was formed by Imran Khan following his successful election as Prime Minister of Pakistan by the National Assembly. The Cabinet has 25 Federal Ministers, 5 Ministers of state and 5 Advisors most of whom assumed office on 20 August 2018.
Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti was a Pakistani jurist who was Judge of the Lahore High Court and was murdered for alleged blasphemy in verdict.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar read out the ruling saying she was free to go, if not wanted in connection with any other case.
Bibi's alleged blasphemous comments were supposedly made after co-workers refused to share water that she had carried; they said it was unclean because she was a Christian (this is a hangover from the caste system, as most of those who converted to Christianity in pre-partition India were members of the lower castes).
The question of drinking order is a vestige of the Hindu caste system that has lingered in the area even after most of the population converted to Islam over a hundred years ago. Christians, believed to be converts from Dalits, continue to be treated as untouchables in parts of Pakistan. For high Brahmans, using the same utensils as someone from a lower caste represented contamination or impurity. It seems the women in the field with Asia Bibi on that ill-fated June day believed this as well.
Two prominent politicians, governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer and minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were assassinated in 2011 after defending Bibi. Her lawyer, Saiful Malook, is a Muslim who claims that Pakistani officials have been influenced by religious hardliners. He has also been targeted by Islamic fundamentalists.
Maulana Yousaf Qureshi, the Khateeb of the historic Masjid Mohabaat Khan in Peshawar, offered a Rs500,000 reward for anyone who kills Aasia, Online news agency reported.
In their final judgment, reviewed by CT, reversing Bibi's convictions by two lower courts and removing her death sentence, the panel of three judges ruled that Bibi was "wrongly" accused by two sisters with the help of a local cleric, based on "material contradictions and inconsistent statements of the witnesses" that "cast a shadow of doubt on the prosecution's version of facts." "Furthermore, the alleged extra-judicial confession was not voluntary but rather resulted out of coercion and undue pressure as the appellant was forcibly brought before the complainant in presence of a gathering, who were threatening to kill her; as such, it cannot be made the basis of a conviction," they wrote. "Therefore, the appellant being innocent deserves acquittal," the judges concluded. One even accused Bibi's accusers of violating a covenant made by Muhammad with Christians in the seventh century but still valid today. "Blasphemy is a serious offence," wrote justice Asif Saeed Khosa, "but the insult of the appellant's religion and religious sensibilities by the complainant party and then mixing truth with falsehood in the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was also not short of being blasphemous.
Islamists launched protests after the country's Supreme Court ruled to acquit Bibi of blasphemy in a widely publicized case.
Radical Islamists mounted rallies against the verdict, blocking roads and burning tyres in protest as they demanded she be executed.
Under the terms of the deal made on Friday night, prime minister Imran Khan's administration said it would begin legal proceedings to place Asia Bibi on the "exit control list" (ECL). ... "I am not surprised that Imran Khan's regime has caved in to extremists," said Wilson Chowdhry, chair of the British Pakistani Christian Association.
In Pakistan, 17 people are on death row for blasphemy, and dozens more have been extrajudicially murdered.
several hundred people have been charged,...No one has yet been executed. But more than 50 people accused of blasphemy have been murdered.
In Pakistan, blasphemy (insulting Islam or its prophet Muhammad) is a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death. The law is often abused by Muslims looking to settle scores with religious minorities. Bibi has denied the accusations. In response to the court's announcement that a three-judge panel reversed earlier court rulings against Bibi on grounds that evidence against her was insufficient, TLP supporters have reportedly staged street protests and have also blockaded major roadways.
Christian farm labourer Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of five, was sentenced to hang for blasphemy in 2010. She had angered fellow Muslim farm workers by taking a sip of water from a cup she had fetched for them on a hot day. When they demanded she convert to Islam, she refused, prompting a mob to later allege that she had insulted the prophet Mohammed.
Since that day in 2009, she has been in prison, in solitary confinement, in a 2.4 by 3m cell without a window. Bibi can't mix with other prisoners for fear that she'll be killed, which is often the fate of those accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.
Justice Asif Khosa, in a verdict widely praised for its courage and rigour, noted that the two sisters who accused Bibi "had no regard for the truth" and that the claim she smeared the prophet in public was "concoction incarnate".
A female commando who is part of a team of police and paramilitary troops deployed to protect Bibi, told The Associated Press that Bibi was reading a Bible when the news about her acquittal was conveyed to her.
Commuters advised to avoid motorways and national highways
The National Highways and Motorway Police has advised commuters to "refrain from travelling on motorways and national highways" on account of "the law & order situation across the country".
Dear Citizens, Keeping in view the law & order situation across the country, please refrain from travelling on Motorways and National Highways. For updated information regarding travel advisory please visit http://nhmp.gov.pk/TravelAdvisory.html … … … Stay tuned for more updates.".
As a result, in Lahore, Church authorities ordered the indefinite closure of Christian schools and asked parents to come and take their children home. Likewise, "Schools will remain closed till further notice," said a sign at St Peter's High School, which is run by the Diocese of Raiwind of the Church of Pakistan.
Pakistan suspended mobile phone networks in major cities on Friday, and many schools were shut down as Islamist groups protested for the third day.
In February, Pope Francis met Ashiq at the Vatican, and Pakistan's small Christian minority held fasts and prayer sessions before the verdict.
Il faut lui accorder l'asile, à elle et à sa famille. MLP #AsiaBibi
A release order arrived Wednesday at the prison in the central city of Multan, where Bibi was detained, a prison official told AFP.
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