Pakistan’s supreme court is expected to decide on January 29 whether or not to hear an appeal against Christian mother of five Asia Bibi, who was cleared of all charges in October but remains in protective custody in an undisclosed location pending the decision, the lawyer involved in the case revealed Thursday.
On January 29, “the court will determine if our appeal against her acquittal is admitted,” Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the lawyer who filed the petition seeking an appeal, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) agency on Thursday.
“Usually the court decides on the same day if the appeal is admitted or not,” he added.
In 2010, a Pakistan court sentenced Bibi to death after local Muslim residents accused her of insulting Mohammed by drinking water out of what they proclaimed to be a “Muslim cup.” The controversial blasphemy statute in Pakistan can carry a punishment of life imprisonment or death.
On October 31, Pakistan’s top court rescinded Bibi’s death penalty, designating the charges of blasphemy levied against her “nothing short of concoction incarnate” and accusing the complainants of “insulting” Islam by fabricating charges.
The death penalty overruling triggered violent protests primarily orchestrated by members of the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) party, which rose to prominence in the South Asian country during the Pakistani elections last year by campaigning on punishing blasphemy.
Following her release, TLP members threatened to kill Bibi, the three Supreme Court judges who released her, and her lawyer, prompting Pakistani authorities to move her to an undisclosed location.
The government allegedly launched a crackdown on the TLP, charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism and moving the party’s leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi into protective custody. Nevertheless, the Pakistani government reached a deal with TLP to prevent Bibi from leaving the country while the Supreme Court deals with petitions to review its acquittal of the Christian mother of five.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration has also agreed not to prevent the TLP from filing a petition to add Bibi to a list preventing her from leaving Pakistan.
Bibi spent nearly eight years incarcerated on death row before her acquittal and remains in Pakistan.
Qari Muhammed Salaam reportedly filed the petition for the Supreme Court to hear the case against Bibi’s acquittal on behalf of TLP firebrand founder Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
The petition is believed to be the last hurdle preventing Bibi from leaving the country.
On Thursday, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) reported, “The world waits anxiously to see whether the Pakistani government and courts will be true to their word and uphold the rule of law or whether more delays will ensue,” adding:
Though she was exonerated on 31st of October she was not actually out of prison until 8th November because of the mass violence that transpired and threats to her life and essential shit down the country until the government struck a bargain with the mob. Even after her departure from prison Asia Bibi need to remained under armed guard in a secret location throughout the entire ordeal.
Despite her acquittal Asia Bibi is determined to be a blasphemer by at least 90% of the nation of Pakistan and therefore a target for assassination. Islamists continued to hunt for the family leaving them vulnerable until additional security measures were taken for Asia’s entourage, and the militants have shown that they have been willing to make more ready targets of churches and Christian neighborhoods. Young boys hung dolls meant to resemble Asia Bibi and sang songs calling for her death, and young men have said “Do not forgive her!”
Bibi and her family were reportedly seeking asylum in the Netherlands. Spain, France, Italy, and most recently Canada have also offered the Christian mother and her family asylum, according to several news reports.
Pakistan is known for using its controversial blasphemy laws to primarily target members of the religious minority groups, mainly Christians. Although the country has yet to carry out a death sentence over blasphemy, some Pakistanis are known to take the law into their own hands, sometimes to lethal extents.