State, Not Individual or Mobs Can Punish Blasphemy Accused: Supreme Court
“We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for the Prophet’s (PBUH) honor. But we are not judges only for Muslims”
Two-thirds Pakistanis approve of Chief Justice Saqib Nisar’s performance during the past one year: Poll
ISLAMABAD (Nov 1, 2018): The country’s top court on Wednesday made it clear that it’s not for individuals, or a gathering [mob], to decide whether Blasphemy has been committed or not, because it’s the mandate of the court to make such decisions.
The prosecutors and plaintiffs failed to prove the accusations beyond reasonable doubt, the court maintained in its landmark judgment on blasphemy case against Aasia Bibi.
No such parallel authority could in any circumstances be bestowed upon any individual or a group of persons, said Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar while reading out the Supreme Court’s 59-page verdict on the case.
Only the state has the authority to bring the machinery of law into operation, bringing the accused before court of the competent jurisdiction for trial in accordance with law, the top court said.
The highly awaited verdict on Aasia Bibi –a Christian woman convicted by a lower court of blasphemy has been quashed by the top court and coincidentally comes less than a week after results of an opinion poll conducted by Gallup Pakistan show two-thirds Pakistanis approve of Chief Justice Saqib Nisar’s performance during the past one year.
The court noted that since 1990, as many as 62 people had been killed on mere allegations of blasphemy even before they could be tried under the law. The court also held that awarding sentence in blasphemy cases is the duty of the state and no one else has the authority to take the law into his own hands and punish anyone on his own.
“Under the authority and command of the Constitution and the law, it is the duty of the state to ensure that no incident of blasphemy shall take place in the country,” stated the Supreme Court in its verdict that absolved Aasia Bibi of blasphemy charges.
“In case of the commission of such crime, only the state has the authority to bring the machinery of law into operation, bringing the accused before court of the competent jurisdiction for trial in accordance with law.”
It is the mandate of the court to make such decision after conducting a fully-qualified trial on the basis of credible evidence brought before it, the verdict said.
“No such parallel authority could in any circumstances be bestowed upon any individual or a group of persons.”
Following the top court’s acquittal of Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges, religio-political parties criticized and threatened the judiciary and followed it up with protests in major cities. According to Dawn citing sources, Center’s advance warnings of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) countrywide protests went unheeded by the provinces.
The top judge during the hearing of a separate case on Thursday, asked how the court could punish someone if the charges against them could not be proven.
“We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for the Prophet’s (PBUH) honor. But we are not judges only for Muslims,” Justice Nisar asserted. “If there is no proof against someone, how can we punish them?”
“We began our judgement with the first kalma. We do not love the Prophet (PBUH) any less than anyone else. We have judges on our bench who are always reciting the Durood Sharif. Our faith is incomplete without our faith in our Prophet (PBUH),” he said.
Justice Nisar said the judgement has also been written in Urdu so that ordinary citizens could read it and understand it.
“I have not seen God, but I have learned to recognize Him through the Prophet’s (PBUH) guidance,” he added.
“Will every person now have to provide proof of their faith?” he asked.
In his reaction, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) executive member described the court verdict as ‘very courageous’. He expressed the hope that the verdict would serve as a judicial check on the misuse of blasphemy law in the future and reduce the level of insecurity among the vulnerable minorities.
The top court verdict, meanwhile, stated that no one could be allowed to blaspheme the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and be left unpunished, but the law is also misused by individuals though false allegations of blasphemy. Even prominent figures, who stressed the fact that the blasphemy laws have been misused by some individuals, met with serious repercussions, it added.
“A latest example of the misuse of the law was the murder of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, who in April 2017 was killed by a mob on the premises of the university merely due to an allegation that he posted blasphemous content online,” said the verdict.
“Tolerance is the basic principle of Islam. It is a religious and a moral duty and further relates to the dignity of human beings, the equality amongst all creations of Allah and also to the fundamental freedom of thought, conscience and belief,” it added.
The verdict also referred to the case of one Ayub Masih, who was accused of blasphemy by his neighbour Muhammad Akram. The alleged took place on October 14, 1996 and the accused was arrested, but despite the arrest, the houses of Christians were set ablaze and the entire Christian population was forced to leave the village.
According to the Supreme Court, Ayub was shot and injured in a sessions court and was also attacked in jail. After the trial was concluded, Ayub was convicted and sentenced to death. The sentence was upheld by the high court, but in an appeal before the Supreme Court, it was observed that the complainant wanted to grab the plot on which Ayub and his father were residing and after implicating him in the said case, he managed to grab the seven-marla plot. The appeal was accepted by the top court and the conviction was set aside.
Full text of Supreme Court’s judgement in Aasia Bibi case:
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