Pakistan: Asia Bibi blasphemy case adjourned by top court
Asia Bibi is on death row for insulting Prophet Muhammad in 2010. The allegation was made by local Muslim women after an argument with her. Photograph: (AFP)
Asia Bibi's blasphemy case was adjourned by Pakistan's Supreme Court after a judge refused to hear her final plea, the Pakistani media reported.
It is not clear when the hearing will commence, Pakistani daily Dawn reported, after one of the three-member bench Justice Iqbal Hamid-ur-Rehman decided to recuse as he had also heard the Salmaan Taseer murder case.
Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer was gunned down in public for supporting Bibi's cause.
Hundreds of security personnel had been deployed in and around the court in Islamabad ahead of the landmark judgement.
Asia Bibi, a Christian, has been on death row since 2010 for apparently desecrating Prophet Muhammad, an allegation she denies.
Her lawyers are seeking to repeal her death sentence.
In 2010, while Bibi was working on a farm with Muslim women, an argument broke out over a cup of water. The women complained to a local cleric that Bibi had insulted the Prophet.
Bibi was charged with blasphemy.
Bibi's daughters now live in seclusion fearing attack from angry villagers, AFP reported.
Her relatives claim she was framed as some people held a personal grudge against her.
Her husband has also written to Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain pleading for clemency and taking her to France, where she has been promised asylum.
If the verdict is in favour of Bibi, it could cause serious repercussions in the Muslim-majority country, as the hardliners in the country are demanding death for Bibi.
If Bibi is sentenced, she will be the first person to be legally executed for blasphemy, which will be a huge setback for minorities living in Pakistan, AFP reported.
Blasphemy is a serious offence in Pakistan and the maximum punishment is death.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws became "Islamicised" between 1980 and 1986 under General Zia-ul-Haq's regime. After partition, Pakistan adopted the law against religious offences set by the British in 1860. Zia's government added more clauses to the law, which include:
- In 1927, 295- A was added which stated remarks which outraged religious sentiments would receive imprisonment, which could be extended ten years and a fine.
- In 1982, 295-B was added for defiling or desecrating a copy of the Muslim holy book of Qur'an, for which a person was given life imprisonment.
- In 1986, 295-C was included for insulting Prophet Muhammad.
(Source: Pakistan Blasphemy Law)
Between 1984 and 2004, 5,000 cases of blasphemy were registered and 964 people were charged and accused of blasphemy. Out of the 964 accused, 32 were killed by vigilantes.
Petitions have been signed to free Asia Bibi by people worldwide, which include 'Save Asia Bibi' and ' A Call For Mercy'. Benedict XVI, who became the first pope to resign in almost 600 years in 2013, also called for a pardon .