Pak­istan SC sets date for Bibi blas­phemy ap­peal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The ac­cused in Pak­istan’s most in­fa­mous blas­phemy case has been granted a fresh chance to es­cape the gal­lows af­ter the Supreme Court con­firmed yes­ter­day that next week it will hear Asia Bibi’s ap­peal against her ex­e­cu­tion. Bibi, a Chris­tian mother of five, has been on death row since 2010 in what some ac­tivists have called a bat­tle for Pak­istan’s soul as the state walks a sharp line be­tween up­hold­ing hu­man rights and ap­peas­ing pop­ulist hard­lin­ers.

“The Supreme Court of Pak­istan un­der the chair of Jus­tice Saqib Nisar will hear Asia Bibi’s ap­peal against her death sen­tence on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 13 in the Supreme Court of Pak­istan, Is­lam­abad,” her lawyer Sai­ful-Mu­look told AFP. “I am very hope­ful and con­fi­dent that my client will get jus­tice... and she will be able to spend her life with her chil­dren.” The court con­firmed yes­ter­day that the date had been set.

Blas­phemy is a hugely sen­si­tive is­sue in deeply con­ser­va­tive, Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity Pak­istan. Any­one even ac­cused of in­sult­ing Is­lam risks a vi­o­lent and bloody death at the hands of vig­i­lantes. Rights groups com­plain the con­tro­ver­sial leg­is­la­tion is often abused to carry out per­sonal vendet­tas, mainly against mi­nor­ity Chris­tians. Bibi was con­victed and sen­tenced to hang in 2010 af­ter an ar­gu­ment with a Mus­lim woman over a bowl of water. Her sup­port­ers main­tain her in­no­cence and in­sist it was a per­sonal dis­pute.

Sup­port­ers of Mum­taz Qadri, an Is­lamist who as­sas­si­nated pro­vin­cial gover­nor Sal­maan Taseer af­ter he ad­vo­cated for Bibi in 2011, reg­u­larly call for her hang­ing. A de­ci­sion by the court in her fa­vor would “send a pow­er­ful mes­sage to the world that Pak­istan re­spects the rule of law and not the mob,” Mustafa Qadri, an ex­pert on hu­man rights in South Asia, told AFP re­cently. He also pre­dicted that sup­port­ers of the as­sas­sin Qadri would re­act vi­o­lently to such a de­ci­sion. The Is­lamist was hung ear­lier this year, bring­ing hard­lin­ers into the streets chant­ing slo­gans against Bibi, although they dis­persed af­ter sev­eral days. — AFP

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