UPDATE: Pakistani Supreme Court Upholds Asia Bibi’s Acquittal of Blasphemy After Hearing Review Petition

CECE HEIL, ACLJ

The Pakistani Supreme Court today heard a review petition against Asia Bibi’s acquittal of blasphemy. After the Court had overturned her conviction on October 31, 2018, the complainant, Qari Muhammad Salam, filed a review petition asking the Court to reconsider its decision.

Asia – a Christian mother of five – was arrested under blasphemy charges in November 2009 after an altercation between two Muslim co-workers over a cup of water. Asia offered water to the two Muslim women from her cup. The women refused to drink water, saying that Asia had made the cup ceremonially unclean by drinking from it. They demanded Asia convert to Islam. Asia refused and an argument ensued. A few days later, a local Muslim cleric lodged a complaint at the police station, alleging Asia had blasphemed against the Prophet Muhammad.

Asia was sentenced to death after a lengthy trial. The Lahore High Court upheld her conviction. But after eight years, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, finding many errors that were committed during trial, found her innocent and overturned her conviction.

Minutes after the Supreme Court announced its decision, Muslim mobs began rioting, blocking roads, torching tires and cars, destroying property, and beating the general public.

The Pakistani government, however, took a strong action against the riots and arrested as many as three thousand protesters and the leaders who instigated the riots. The government charged the instigators with serious offenses.

However, in an unusual move, the Pakistani government allowed a review petition to be filed with the Supreme Court.

Today, a three-member bench, comprised of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, heard the arguments on the review petition.

A team from the Organization for Legal Aid, an affiliate of our European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), was present at the hearing.

Petitioner’s lawyer, Ghulam Ikram, presented the argument. The justices asked him to prove how the verdict acquitting Asia was wrong. They further explained that the verdict was given on the basis of a careful review of the testimonies. Stating that the Court did not find any error in its original verdict, the justices dismissed the review petition and upheld the verdict of acquittal.

We are glad that justice is served again and Asia Bibi’s legal battle has come to an end once and for all. However, she needs prayers for her and her family’s security.


CeCe Heil is a Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) specializing in public policy and global legal matters including the United Nations. She heads a team of lawyers handling cases in defense of life, protection of US National Security interests and dealing with Islamic extremism.


Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.