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SC to hear Aasia`s appeal next week

By Nasir Iqbal 2016-10-08
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court is expected to take up on Oct 13 an appeal of a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, against the death sentence awarded to her in November 2010 by a trial court in a blasphemy case.

The appeal, filed in Lahore in November 2014, will be heard by a three-judge bench consisting of Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rahman and Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik. The appellant will be represented by her counsel Saiful Malook.On July 22 last year, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Nisar had suspended the October2014 Lahore High Court verdict upholding the death sentence.

In her appeal, Aasia Bibi denied that she had uttered any blasphemous remarks during an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water in Sheikhupura in June 2009 and said she had been falsely accused by her neighbours.

The case came to prominence when former governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer publicly declared himself to be a sympathiser of the condemned prisoner.He paid a visit to the woman in a jail in Lahore, received her mercy petition and underscored the need for improvement in the blasphemy law, in addition to assuring the minority communities that they enjoyed adequate constitutional and legal protection.

Later, the governor was kille d by one of his guards, Punjab police Elite Force commando Malik Mohammad Mumtaz Qadri, near a market in Islamabad on Jan 4, 2011.

In a detailed Oct 27, 2015 judgement restoring the capital punishment awarded to Mumtaz Qadri by an antiterrorism court, Justice AsifSaeed Khosa of the Supreme Court called for improvement in the blasphemy law for providing safeguards against its misuse through false allegations.

`Any call for reforming the blasphemy law (Section 295-C, Pakistan Penal Code) ought not to be mistaken as a call for doing away with that law and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or use of that law by motivated persons,` the judgement said.

It said that Islam loathed levelling of false allegations, which itself was a serious offence.