Islamabad, Pakistan (Sohail Khan) | The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Tuesday rejected a review petition challenging its decision to acquit Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, of blasphemy charges.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, dismissed the petition against the Supreme Court's decision last October to free Aasia Bibi from the death row, where she languished for eight years. The review petition was filed by Qari Muhammad Salam.
Last year in October, a three-member bench of the apex court headed by former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, had acquitted Aasia Bibi, convicted in 2010 for blasphemy, and ordered her immediate release from jail after setting aside her conviction and sentence awarded by courts. Qari Muhammad Salam filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its judgment and had contended that Aasia Bibi confessed to her crime during an investigation and that a delay in lodging the FIR does not imply that the defendant is not guilty of the crime. The petitioner had also sought to put her name on the ECL.
On Tuesday, the court, after hearing Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, counsel for Qari Muhammad Salam, dismissed the review petition with the observation that the counsel could not point out any mistake in its verdict, acquitting Aasia Bibi of blasphemy charges. "Based on merit, this review petition is dismissed," Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa announced after hearing the complainant’s counsel for one and a half hour. During the hearing, Justice Khosa observed that they were hearing the review petition at length for the satisfaction of those who issue fatwas (decrees) without going through the verdict. 
The chief justice noted with pain that lots of lies were told in this case, adding as a whole there was a pack of contradictions found in the testimonies given by all the witnesses. “We have shown great restraint in this case for being sensitive in nature otherwise a pack of lies was told in the instant case,” the chief justice observed, adding had it been a normal case, they could have lodged a case against the false statements given by the witnesses. He said there were contradictions in the statements of all the witnesses. The chief justice asked the complainant’s counsel to assist in deciding what should be the punishment for those who made the false statement. “Under the law, the false testimonies given by witnesses in such cases should be awarded life imprisonment after a summary trial,” the chief justice remarked.
Justice Khosa noted that there is a complainant who is ignorant of the whole incident, got five days to think and to deliberate upon the issue and even does not know how to prepare and lodge an FIR and also did not know about an unknown advocate who drafted the contents of the FIR. “Is this the picture of Islam that Qari Sahib wants to present and should this kind of witnesses be presented in a case,” the chief justice questioned.
At the start of the hearing, Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry requested the court to constitute a larger bench to hear the petition, arguing that the court should also invite religious scholars for its assistance as the matter was extremely sensitive in nature. The Chief Justice observed that there is no issue of religion, adding they have to first look at the merits of the case. The CJP asked the counsel for pinpointing any mistake, the court had made in its judgment. “You have to show an error if made by the court on the face of the record,” Justice Khosa asked the complainant’s counsel. “Readout para seven of the judgment and tell us if we have read out the evidence wrong,” the chief justice further asked the counsel.
The chief justice asked whether Islam stresses awarding punishment even if the crime is not proven against the accused. The CJP recalled that the court had given its verdict on the basis of evidence. The counsel contended that the court in its verdict had referred to the treaty made with the Christians by the Muslims, however, he contended that all the Ulema have questioned the authenticity of that treaty which was fake and was intended for exemption from paying jizya. The chief justice observed that the court had also cited a book wherein the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has stressed for the protection of minorities, saying it is the beauty of Islamic society to ensure the protection of right of minorities. The chief justice observed that Islam stresses for giving true testimony even if it is to be given against the near and dear ones.
The counsel submitted that in the verdict it was held that most of the female witnesses in the instant case were ignorant. The chief justice recalled that in the verdict the court had held that you had said that Aasia uttered the alleged blasphemous words by addressing 25 people. “Was she addressing a public gathering (Jalsa)”, the CJP asked the counsel. “Similarly, the female witnesses told the investigation officer that no dispute occurred between them,” the CJP observed, adding that this case did not have as many honest witnesses as it should have had. The chief justice further noted that according the investigation officer, the female witnesses changed their testimonies, adding there was also contradiction between the testimonies of investigation officer and the witnesses.
Justice Khosa also referred to the statements of the complainant given on oath, adding that his second statement differed from the first one. “There is a complainant who does not know about the incident personally and who thought over for five days, deliberated upon the issue and then he did not know about an unknown advocate who drafted the contents of the FIR,” the CJP noted “Should these kinds of witnesses be presented in a case,” the CJP questioned. “And then you block the whole country as to why you were not favoured and blame the courts for acquitting the accused,” the chief justice said.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa repeatedly asked the counsel of the complainant to tell as to what error the court had made in the impugned judgment. “There is a great difference between the testimonies of all the witnesses,” he remarked.


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