Every Pakistani has freedom to profess faith of choice, SC rules


–Blasphemy accused acquitted after 19 years imprisonment


LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday stated that the constitution guarantees an individual the freedom to hold and profess the faith of his choice, adding that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection no matter what religion they adhere to while acquitting a blasphemy accused after 19 years of imprisonment.

According to the details, a sessions court had sentenced Hassan to death for offences under Sections 295-A, 295-C & 298-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 in July 2002. A high court in September 2010 had retained the penalty.

The convict later appealed in the SC which granted leave to his plea in 2013. After the passage of six years, the court resumed hearing of the case.

The order said a criminal charge is to be essentially settled on positive proof alone and not on perceptional or optical paradigms. “The same is required in the present case; nonetheless, [such positive proof is] hopelessly out of sight.”

The court noted that it would be grievously unsafe to maintain conviction without the potential risk of error. “Therefore, by extending the benefit of the doubt, the criminal appeal is allowed; the impugned judgment is set aside; the appellant is acquitted of the charges and shall be released forthwith, if not required in any other case. The office shall ensure destruction of entire derogatory material and copies thereof, at all tiers”

The complainant, Ismail Qureshi, had received a series of letters containing blasphemous content. In one such letter, the alleged sender had established his identity by attaching a copy of the National Identity card of the accused Wajeeh-ul-Hassan, who was later arrested.

The court wondered why Wajeeh who consistently hid over a long period of time, finally dispatched a copy of his ID so as to voluntarily rope himself in a case that might well cost him his neck.

“There appears no earthly reason for his choice; if at all, it is assumed that he was on a suicidal course, he could have simply mentioned his identity in the letters or could come forward, as according to the prosecution, he presented himself on 21-5-2001,” it noted.

The order said it is well settled that a weak piece of evidence cannot corroborate another weak piece of evidence. “Absconsion cannot be viewed as proof of the crime. People stay away from the law for a variety of reasons not necessarily compatible with the hypothesis of guilt; to avoid the impending wrath of opponents in hostile environments, more often than not compel even the innocent into recusal of safety”

The court said it cannot dismiss the appellant’s plea of being a faithful Muslim nor can possibly take exception, in the absence of evidence to the contrary to his acclaimed unflinching conviction in the injunctions of his faith.