By Khalid Bhatti
Supreme Court of Pakistan has acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman accused
of blasphemy in 2010 and sentenced to death by a lower court. On Wednesday, Oct
31, the Supreme Court set aside the death penalty awarded by a lower court and
upheld by a high court.
Justice Saqib Nisar, heading the three-member bench comprising Justice Asif
Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, read the 56-page verdict.
seems that Supreme Court has been consistent in its judgments on such sensitive
cases. The higher judiciary upheld the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, the
murderer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. But the executive and
parliament are failing us. Both are not ready to abandon the decades-old policy
of appeasing and supporting the religious right. This policy has spread hatred,
intolerance, extremism and bigotry in society.
one is glad that the Supreme Court set free a poor and helpless women who has
already suffered a lot, it is also disturbing that she will not be able to live
in this country even after proving her innocence in the highest court of this
land. She will continue to fear for her life since we have failed to build a
progressive, plural, tolerant, enlightened and rational society.
not forget that the brave and courageous governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer,
lost his life in the struggle to get justice for Aasia Bibi when he was killed
by his police guard, Mumtaz Qadri.
reaction of the Tehreek-e- Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Aasia Bibi’s acquittal is
not surprising at all since TLP leaders had been making threatening speeches
against Supreme Court judges ever since they reserved the verdict in the
beginning of October. These extremists had been preparing their followers for
weeks to come out on the streets in case of Aasia Bibi’s acquittal.
soon as Supreme Court announced the verdict, crowds started to emerge in
different cities to block the traffic and disturb routine life. No arrangement
was made to deal with the highly charged crowds in different cities.
Minister Imran Khan appeared on TV screens hours later to address the nation on
this issue. He showed his displeasure over the actions and speeches of TLP
leaders and supporters and condemned the words they had used against the
judiciary and the military.
is not the first time that the leaders of the TLP have used abusive and highly
objectionable language in their speeches. They used similar derogatory language
and threats during their Islamabad sit-in in November 2017.
PML-N government of the time, and its ministers, was saying the same thing
about the TLP and its sit-in at that time. But the PTI and Imran Khan had other
views on that issue.
that time, Supreme Court justices, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faiz
Isa made the right observation about the political motives of that sit-in in
their order in November 2017. “The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is
determined to exploit the situation and gain political mileage to gain
support...,” said a six-page order.
Supreme Court has sent a clear message that it will uphold the law and
constitution under any circumstances. It is now time for the legislature and
the executive to stand firm and refuse to succumb to the pressure of religious
have learnt from our past mistakes that the use of religion for short-term
political gains can have long-term consequences. We might have to pay a heavy
price to for such actions.
ruling class is not ready to change its decades-old policy of exploiting
people’s religious sentiments for political gains. Which is why religious
leaders have been successfully employing the same tactics and policies over the
years. This policy of appeasement and surrender has brought catastrophic
consequences for us. Our economy has lost billions of dollars. Thousands of
lives have been lost, including those of our brave men in uniform. Our international
image has also been tarnished. But who cares?
downward spiral serves the interests of some power and social elite, and also
marginalises secular, progressive and liberal forces. While some are made to
acquiesce via the gun, there are those who will continue to spread hatred,
bigotry and extremist ideas through their sermons and religiously-motivated
political speeches. Such groups are allowed to do as they please in order to
forces want superiority over parliament. They also want the continued
acceptance of their interpretation of religion and the law. They want to
eliminate any debate on these issues within and outside parliament.
right-wing political parties and extremist groups have succeeded in their
agenda to render the elected parliament ineffective by not allowing it to
debate the major political and social issues that the country faces. The
current protest seeks to maintain this hegemony over religious matters. They
want to make decisions on the streets instead of in parliament and other legal
and constitutional forums.
writer is a freelance journalist.