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Pakistan’s top judge to hear Asia Bibi’s death sentence appeal

KARACHI (UCAN): Pakistan’s chief justice, Saqib Nisar, has announced he will take up the appeal of Asia Bibi, the Catholic mother of five who has been on death row since 2010 for blasphemy (Sunday Examiner, 28 November 2010).
He told her chief counsel, Saif ul Malook to prepare her appeal.
“Be ready, Saif ul Malook. I am going to fix your case soon and I myself will preside over the bench,” Nisar told Malook on April 21.
The judge made his comments when the lawyer appeared before the Supreme Court seeking police protection for taking on Bibi’s case after it had been withdrawn by the Punjab police. Nisar ordered the reinstatement of police protection.
Malook said that he had high hopes that Bibi’s conviction would be struck down by the Supreme Court.
“Bibi’s family and everyone else who understands her ordeal, are ecstatic at the news that her appeal will be heard soon,” Malook said.  
Bibi was arrested in 2009, under the country’s controversial blasphemy law, for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with Muslim women at an orchard in a small town in Punjab province.
Bibi has maintained her innocence and said she was punished for daring to drink water meant for Muslims only. Many Muslims in Pakistan regard Christians as impure due to a deep-rooted culture of religious discrimination.
In November 2010, a court convicted Asia Bibi of blasphemy and sentenced her to death. Four years later, the Lahore High Court upheld her death sentence.
The Supreme Court admitted her appeal in July 2015 and the first hearing took place on 13 October 2016, but the court adjourned after one of the three judges on the bench, Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman, recused himself, claiming a conflict of interest (Sunday Examiner, 23 October 2016).
The court has been unable to set up a new bench to hear Bibi’s appeal until now.

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