Closing The Chapter

“We will not hear the case again,” remarked the Chief Justice of Pakistan, while hearing the review petition of the Aasia Bibi Case. “We are hearing the petition for the satisfaction of those who gave fatwas on the verdict without reading it.”

With these words, the Supreme Court has concluded the final chapter of an eight year long case that has wreaked havoc upon the country. Since 2010, this case, which has received international condemnation, has been to the Sessions Court, High Court, Supreme Court and then the review jurisdiction of the Supreme Court- with this one final order, this unfortunate case should finally close but the precedent it leaves behind- that blasphemy allegations should withstand the legal tests and credibility required of witnesses, and that no one should be presumed guilty before trial for blasphemy-should remain etched in law.

It should be noted that this review was taken up only to placate some of the religious parties which had taken to the streets, vandalised public property and threatened violence in the aftermath of the Supreme Court verdict of the Aasia Bibi case, which too declared her innocent. Will this review decision aggravate these parties again? There could not have been a fairer trial, the petitioner Qari Salam has been given the opportunity to make his case at every level permitted by the law and has been heard by the best legal minds of the country but he was not able to justify the inconsistencies in testimonies and unexplained delays to merit the beyond a reasonable doubt standard required for criminal cases. Extremist parties, which have been accommodated at every stage, have no reason to protest- unless their mandate had always been to override principles of trial, justice and presumption of innocence to enforce their will.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt