The decision of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to acquit Aasia Bibi of false charges of “blasphemy” is a courageous verdict in a country where the mere accusation of “blasphemy” is enough to incite vigilante killing.
But it would be misleading to claim, as Amnesty International and others have, that this is a “landmark ruling” that will improve the plight of Pakistan’s Christian minority – or even the many Muslims – who are falsely accused of defiling the name of Muhammad.
It remains a crime under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and carries a mandatory death penalty. Those who oppose Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws can themselves be accused of “blasphemy”.
Contradictory witness statements meant evidence against Aasia Bibi was not credible
The judgment is based on a mixture of sharia and Western-based law. But it is the latter, particularly the law of evidence, that has ultimately prevailed. The judges found that the massive contradictions in the statements of prosecution witnesses meant that they could not be considered “truthful witnesses”. There were significant discrepancies as to the place, number of persons present (ranging between 100 and 2,000) and even the date of a village meeting when Asia Bibi was alleged to have confessed to “blasphemy”.