10/31/2018, 11.19
PAKISTAN
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Asia Bibi acquitted: a victory for civil society

by Shafique Khokhar

The Christian mother declared not guilty of blasphemy, after nine years in prison. The sentence "is proof that the law is used to resolve personal disputes". Asia Bibi "can never live in his country".

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The acquittal of Asia Bibi confirms two things: that in Pakistan the blasphemy law is used to resolve personal disputes and the blood of Salman Taseer, a former Muslim governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, a former Christian minister for minorities (both murdered because they had defended the Christian woman), was not in vain. Some activists in Pakistan are convinced of this and are delighted to comment AsiaNews on the Supreme Court verdict on Asia, previously "reserved"  and made public only this morning. Below we publish their comments.

 

“Today's verdict is triumph for rule of law in Pakistan. The honorable Supreme Court has restored the faith in legal process and justice in Pakistan. All citizens are equal regardless of their religious beliefs. Justice was delayed but not denied.

Dil Nawaz, researcher at the Liverpool Hope University Interfaith Affairs and the Trustee of Hope Heritage

 

The decision of Supreme Court in favor of Asia Bibi is evidence that blasphemy law is being used against religious minorities of Pakistan to settle personal scores. The justice system at the Lower level looked very weak and ruled against Asia Bibi under pressure of the extremist elements, however the judges of the Apex Court are to be appreciated who did not bow to pressure of the hardcore Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and other extremist outfits. Asia Bibi is acquitted but the sad part of the story is that she will not be able to live in her own homeland because of threats to her life similar to many other cases. The story does not end here, there is an extreme level threat to the Christian Community and their lives, worship places and properties are in danger and therefore there is a need that the state plays its role and takes stern action against all the groups to take law in their hands.

Samson Salamat, president of the Rwadari Tehreek (Interreligious Movement for Tolerance)

 

The acquittal of Asia Bibi is a historic judgment and we appreciate the fair and impartial decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Unfortunately an innocent woman has had to lose nine precious years of her life; she and her family have had to endure extremely traumatic circumstances for a crime that was never committed. This in itself demands for the authorities to look into/revisit Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and take concrete measures to curb its misuse. How many more innocent people need to face the brutality of prison, how many more families need to be traumatized, how many more homes need to be shattered, how many more innocent lives need to be lost, how many more children need to be orphaned, before the Government of Pakistan can turn its attention towards the misuse of this law that is affecting the lives of both Muslim and non – Muslim Pakistanis?

Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation

 

Today the supreme court has shown great mettles by taking a firm stand on justice and civil liberties. However, this verdict may have chilling ramifications, as the threatening warnings of Khadim Rizvi [leader of Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, ed], a flamboyant hate monger, are making the air thick with fear of another bout of anarchy. Exciting religious emotions, they can create situation of law and order, which Pakistan can’t afford, given its financial woes. While the acquittal offers a sigh of relief, it may inject more blood in the already swelled up veins of extremists. What the government should do? It should not give in to hate mongers, as they will find it an opportunity to further their agenda to control the state. Parents should keep an eye on their young children lest they should be used by these extremists for their nefarious design to destabilize the country.

Hamza Arshad, teacher and writer

(Video credit: Samson Salamat)

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