After the Aasia Bibi verdict, a longer battle

After the Aasia Bibi verdict, a longer battle

Lahore, 1 November 2018. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has greatly
welcomed the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement acquitting Aasia Bibi, a Christian
woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death. In a statement issued
today, HRCP has said:

‘While there is every reason to be relieved that Aasia Bibi has been acquitted after eight
years of incarceration in the perpetual shadow of a death sentence, that Pakistan should
have come this close to executing a woman for ‘blasphemy’ is a sobering thought. It is also
worth remembering what this case alone has cost in terms of other lives lost for a principle
– both the Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, and the federal minister for minorities’ affairs,
Shahbaz Bhatti, had advocated bravely and publicly for Aasia Bibi’s release.
‘With at least 40 other people reportedly on death row or serving life sentences for
blasphemy, both the state and civil society need to introspect. From a human rights
perspective, the Supreme Court’s detailed judgment underlines several of the most
problematic aspects of applying the blasphemy laws. The presumption of innocence is too
easily buried by moral outrage, which invariably pits the vulnerable and underprivileged
against those in majority. Moreover, the evidence of extrajudicial confession cannot be
allowed to hold any legal worth.
‘HRCP strongly condemns the vicious reaction of all far-right religious-political groups who
have taken to violent protests and openly threatened the lives of those associated with this
case. While we welcome the government’s stance that the rule of law must be upheld, HRCP
urges the state to make it perfectly clear that any party’s incitement to religious hatred –
notably that of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan – will not be tolerated and is punishable under
the law. Moreover, while it is critical that the judges and lawyers associated with this and
similar cases be provided adequate security, this is a short-term solution to a longer, harder
battle. Ultimately, the state must consider reforming the blasphemy laws in the interest of
applying the law to all its citizens fairly, irrespective of their faith.’
Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

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