10/26/2014 Pakistan (TNS)-The decision of the two-member bench of the Lahore High Court on Oct 16, 2014, upholding the verdict of trial court that awarded death sentence to Asia Bibi in 2009, again puts the issue of blasphemy laws under the spotlight.
According to experts, the case could have been quashed in the trial court on legal grounds as it was registered five days after the incident occurred. The complainant of the case was not present at the place where the incident happened and the testimony of ‘interested witnesses’ was not corroborated by some independent evidence.
The detailed judgment of LHC’s decision on the case has not been issued yet. The trial court in its judgment had drawn a strange inference from the statement of Asia Bibi. “Asia admitted that she exchanged ‘hot words’ with those two Muslim sisters. When a Muslim and Christian exchange ‘hot words’ the blasphemy was a natural outcome. And, thus, she committed blasphemy,” reads the decision of the trial court.
Asia’s family says she was abused and tortured by a crowd in the village before she was arrested. “Police told me that they had arrested her for her safety,” Ashiq Masih, her husband, tells TNS. “Everybody knows she did not commit blasphemy but she is on death row. She has been behind bars since June 2009. I am pinning hope on the Supreme Court to get justice.”
Nearly a quarter of the countries in the world — mostly Muslim — have blasphemy laws in place but it is only Pakistan’s law which comes under spotlight again and again. Here a mere charge of blasphemy in Pakistan means the end of one’s life.
The police, in most instances, register a case against the accused under the pressure of a mob on the pretext of “safeguarding the life of the accused”. The trial courts, in most cases of 295-C, convict the accused under pressure from religious elements that make sure they are present in big numbers during the proceedings of such cases, not only in trail courts but also in higher courts.
It has been observed that blasphemy laws have been misused to settle sectarian and personal issues. The issue of amending blasphemy laws is too sensitive. A former judge of Lahore High Court, Mian Nazir Akhtar, reportedly, told a religious gathering in December 2010 that parliament had no right to amend blasphemy laws and if it happened, it would be un-Islamic and Muslims would take the law in their own hands and kill people involved in such an act.