Mst. Asia Bibi v. The State etc.: Pakistan Supreme Court Vacates Blasphemy Conviction of Christian Woman

The Pakistan Supreme Court has acquitted Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges, removing her from death row. A Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was arrested in 2010 after a dispute with her Muslim co-workers in which they claimed that she insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The state prosecutor charged her with blasphemy and the trial court sentenced her to death. The courts subsequently dismissed her appeal to the Lahore High Court. After a lengthy series of appeals, the Pakistan Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges, vacating her sentence. The decision navigates between affirming the law and reversing its application to Ms. Bibi. The Court notes on the one hand that blasphemy was a severe offense under classic Islamic law, and it upholds capital punishment for it, citing Muhammad Ismail Qureshi v. Pakistan (PLD 1991 FSC 10). The Court concludes, on the other hand, that the prosecution failed to prove its case against the appellant “beyond reasonable doubt.” It noted “glaring and stark contradictions in the evidence,” and cited evidence that the prosecution’s witnesses harbored ill will against Asia Bibi and thus may have fabricated the allegations. According to the Court, “even if there was some grain of truth in the allegations … the glaring contradictions in the evidence … clearly show that the truth in this case had been mixed with a lot which was untrue.” In the end, the Court notes the abuse of the blasphemy charge, and condemns people with “nefarious designs” who level false allegations of blasphemy, citing Malik Muhammad Mumtaz Qadri v. the State (PLD 2016 SC 17). This decision thus upholds blasphemy laws but cautions against broad and false applications of it.

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