ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday rejected a review petition challenging the top court’s decision to acquit Asia Bibi, a peasant Christian woman enmeshed in a years-long blasphemy row.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel took up the petition filed against the top court’s verdict acquitting Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges and setting her free.
Petitioner Qari Muhammad Saalam’s lawyer Ghulam Mustafa presented his arguments before the bench and demanded that a larger bench comprising Islamic scholars be constituted to hear the petition.
Qari Muhammad Saalam had filed a review petition in the Supreme Court Lahore registry through his counsel Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, after the apex court acquitted Asia Bibi, who had been on death row since she was convicted on blasphemy charges in 2010.
The petitioner had argued that Bibi confessed to her crimes during investigation, and that a delay in lodging the First Information Request does not imply that the defendant is not guilty of the crime.
The petitioner had also sought to put her name on the Exit Control List till a final decision on the review petition was made.
Asia Bibi’s conviction was overturned by Pakistan’s highest court on October 31 in a landmark decision, but she had remained in prison as the government negotiated with protesters from religious groups — led by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) — who blockaded major cities and demanded her immediate execution.
On November 2, the government had agreed in a deal with the protesters to follow due process to impose a travel ban on Bibi, and not to challenge the review appeal in the Supreme Court.