LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has welcomed the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment that acquitted 47-year-old Aasiya Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case.
“While there is every reason to be relieved that Aasiya Bibi has been acquitted after eight years of incarceration in the perpetual shadow of a death sentence, that Pakistan should have come this close to executing a woman for blasphemy, is a sobering thought,” HRCP said in a statement issued on Friday
It is also worth remembering what this case alone has cost in terms of other lives lost for a principle – both Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, and federal minister for minorities’ affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, had advocated bravely and publicly for Aasiya’s release, it said.
“With at least 40 other people reportedly on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy, both the state and civil society need to introspect. From a human rights perspective, the Supreme Court’s detailed judgment underlines several of the most problematic aspects of applying the blasphemy laws. The presumption of innocence is too easily buried by moral outrage, which invariably pits the vulnerable and underprivileged against those in majority.”
The statement further said that HRCP strongly condemns the vicious reaction of all religious-political groups who have taken to violent protests and openly threatened the lives of those associated with the case.
“While we welcome the government’s stance that the rule of law must be upheld, HRCP urges the state to make it perfectly clear that any party’s incitement to religious hatred will not be tolerated and is punishable under the law.”
“Moreover, while it is critical that the judges and lawyers associated with this and similar cases be provided adequate security, this is a short-term solution to a longer, harder battle,” the statement concluded.