After a decade of imprisonment, humiliation, and degradation, Aasia Bibi has been acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. She is now free of any charges against her, news that is causing riots all over the country, especially Lahore.
Falsely accused of blasphemy – a fact even her accusers know – she lost nine years of her life due to religious fascists in the region, who had seen her sentenced to death, a sentence that has now been overturned by the SC. The injustice of spending a decade imprisoned, and fighting against the death penalty, for a “crime” she never committed will not be forgotten, by anyone, much less Aasia Noreen herself, and for what? For going against the claims of an intolerant woman who disagreed to Aasia Bibi touching a bowl of water because being a Christian made her…impure? It made her deserving of being accused of committing blasphemy, one of Pakistan’s most dangerous, and controversial charges anyone can place against someone.
Such a bittersweet moment. While it’s an amazing day for Pakistan, I can’t help but think of all the lives lost over ‘guarding’ this ridiculous law. Peace and power – Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and Mashal. #AasiaBibiVerdict
— Maria Amir (@Beentherella) October 31, 2018
Today, justice was served, even if it was delayed for far too long. It does not mean, however, that the world is likely to forget the accusers. What punishment will be meted out to those who falsely accused the innocent woman, took away nine years of her life? What about the assassinations of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, for speaking up about these archaic laws and the injustices dealt out with them? We hope that the Supreme Court will continue to investigate the case, and reopen hundreds of other cases wherein people have been imprisoned or murdered due to allegations of blasphemy. In the words of Pakistani Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hassan,
“The law creates this legal infrastructure which is then used in various informal ways to intimidate, coerce, harass and persecute.”
— Khurram Qureshi (@qureshik74) October 31, 2018
One notable case would be that of Mashal Khan, a Pashtun student who was killed on the 13th of April 2017 by a lynch mob after being falsely accused of committing blasphemy. A hardworking student, who was a humanist, and wrote poetry in Pashto, was murdered due to criticizing how his University was run.
According to the Penal Laws of the country, blasphemy against any religion is permitted, yet somehow, blasphemy is only committed against, and avenged by the religious majority of the country. Despite international outcry against these laws, no reforms have been made so far. We hope that this acquittal will open up the need for reforms, and free expression towards the blasphemy laws, and how to prevent people like Aasia Bibi from being convicted, tried, and sentenced to death after being falsely accused, as well as dealing with the murderers and their blatant disregard of the law.
The legislature must also be open to the formation of new laws protecting minority rights in the region, because those are the classes that face disgusting discrimination at the hands of the masses, such as all of the Christians, Hindus, Shia, and Ahmedi community that face blatant hatred.
The Supreme Court must ensure that the blasphemy laws will never be used to persecute, harass, threaten, or exact personal vendettas against the citizens of Pakistan.
The verdict wasn’t surprising, but much needed despite the rioting it has incited. We urge the Supreme Court to take note of the religious intolerance practiced especially by groups like TLP and assure the public of their safety. Moreover, these protestors shouldn’t be allowed to disrupt the political, social, financial, and economic situation of the country, or threaten people who support the overturning of this conviction. Today will be remembered in history for a massive step towards the serving of justice, and not pandering to fascist groups.
We just hope that the current government and the Supreme Court can handle the massive backlash of religious groups coming their way, especially due to the protests erupting all over the country. Perhaps, this can be seen as a test.