Asia Bibi’s hearing in the Pakistan SC adjourned: Judge claims “Conflict of Interest”

A final chance has been granted to a Christian woman – convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan and facing execution.

Asia Bibi Blasphemy
Image: The Christian Post

The much awaited hearing of Asia Bibi’s last appeal in the court against her conviction for blasphemy in Pakistan’s Supreme Court was adjourned today, according to a report by Dawn. Another date for the hearing was not declared immediately by the Supreme Court.

The news report says that citing the reason of “conflict of interest” one of the judges – Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman requested to be replaced from the three-judge bench constituted for Bibi’s hearing.
As per the reports, Justice Rehman told the court, "I was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salman Taseer, and this case is related to that." A letter was written to the chief justice to appoint another judge to the bench.

Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was assassinated in 2011 after he supported Bibi of Christian faith, who was convicted of blasphemy in 2010. His assassin Mumtaz Qadri was executed after he was found guilty by the Islamabad High Court. Justice Rehman was the Chief Justice of the high court, when the court heard Qadri’s appeal.
After Qadri's execution, thousands from Pakistan had rallied in Islamabad to proclaim him a hero and a martyr, as reported by The Telegraph.

Bibi, a mother of five from rural Punjab was convicted of blasphemy following an argument with her Muslim coworkers. According to a report, her coworkers allegedly refused to drink from the water bowl fetched by her. They claimed it was “contaminated” because she's a Christian.

Five days later, an imam who was allegedly not present during the argument accused her of defaming the prophet. Despite insisting she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination, Bibi was sentenced to be hanged the following year.

Appeals at lower courts have all failed, before the country's top court temporarily suspended her execution in July 2015. Recently, the Supreme Court had set the date October 14 for her last chance to appeal in the courts against her conviction.

Although several accused of blasphemy have been killed before in Pakistan, Bibi will become the first person to lose her life to Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, if the Supreme Court of Pakistan does not overturn her sentence.

According to this report, at least 20 people charged with blasphemy in Pakistan have been murdered, some by their own prison guards. Many more have gone into hiding.

Saif-ul Mulook, Bibi’s lawyer, told The Telegraph that his client had never received a fair trial. The charges against her were the result of a “personal vendetta” between her and the complainant, he said.

Mulook, who is also being targeted with death threats, is residing in Lahore under police guard.

Bibi’s husband has been living in hiding with their five children, since past six years, as reported by The Telegraph. He said that he is hopeful about justice from the Supreme Court. “She has been living a miserable life for many years. I want justice for the mother of my five children.The complainant and witnesses were biased and the complaint was registered on personal motives,” he claimed.

If the appeal fails, Bibi’s final hope is a pardon from Mamnoon Hussain, the president of Pakistan. But the fundamentalist clerics who wish to see her executed wield considerable influence in Pakistan, and few politicians dare to openly defy them, according to this report.

Activists claim that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used to persecute or settle private vendettas against the country’s three million Christians.
Related Story: Ray of Hope for Pakistan: The return of Shahbaz, Salman Taseer’s Son



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