Islamabad on maximum alert for final hearing in Asia Bibi freedom

The Supreme Court judges are meeting. The district magistrate ordered Pakistan’s Rangers to ensure the safety of certain sensitive areas. There is fear of renewed violence by Islamic radicals who have obtained a revision of the acquittal sentence from the government.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, is on maximum alert where today the hearing to review the acquittal of Asia Bibi takes place at the Supreme Court. The authorities have not revealed whether the Christian mother, who was acquitted at the end of October of the blasphemy charge, for which she had been sentenced to death and spent nine years in prison, will be present in the courtroom.

What is certain is that her lawyer Saiful Malook will be. He returned from voluntary exile in Holland, where he had taken refuge to save his life after the acquittal. He has high hopes for a positive resolution of the story that has occupied the headlines for years. The plaintiffs, he says, "have no thesis against my client".

Today the court is in charge of evaluating the petition presented by Qari Muhammad Salaam. President Asif Saeed Khosa is presiding over a jury composed of him, Qazi Faez Isa and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel. It is the same three who have already considered Asia Bibi "not guilty".

Salaam instead is the Islamic preacher of the mosque in the village of Nankana Sahib, the one who in 2009 filed a denunciation for contempt of the Prophet Muhammad against Asia Bibi. In all likelihood, as has already happened with the acquittal, the judges could secret their decision, to quell the passions of the radicals.

Yesterday, the capital's district magistrate ordered National Rangers to be deployed in sensitive areas, including Judges Colony, the ministry's enclave and the diplomatic zone. The goal is to ensure security in Islamabad during the hearing on the "sensitive case" and "avoid any deplorable incident". There are hundreds of agents deployed.

What worries the authorities is the probable violent reaction of the Islamic radicals of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (Tlp) party who in November set the country on fire  protesting Asia’s aquittal. She was sentenced to death on 7 November 2010 by a Punjab court. She had been arrested for contempt of the Prophet Muhammad in June of the previous year, after an argument with some of her colleagues in which she defended her religion. To prevent the escalation of violence, the government of Imran Khan came to terms with the demonstrators and granted the revision of the verdict of the supreme judges.

In October, the Christian woman was released but cannot leave the country on the basis of an agreement with Islamic radicals. From that moment she lives in Islamabad in a place of maximum security, escorted and protected. Of her family, only her husband could re-embrace her, unlike her four daughters.