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Pakistan Supreme Court to review Asia Bibi's blasphemy acquittal

Most reviews of Supreme Court verdicts are dismissed immediately, but the politically sensitive nature of the case has added an extra layer of uncertainty.

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Pakistan's Supreme Court will on Tuesday begin a review of its own acquittal of a Christian woman charged with blasphemy, a verdict that sparked days of Islamist protests and threats and chaos across the country.

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Asia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row, has been in hiding since the Supreme Court freed her in October, with religious hardliners calling for her death and putting pressure on the government to prevent her from leaving the country.

A three-judge panel, including the new Supreme Court Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, are due to hear the case.

Bibi's lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, who fled to Europe due to fears for his safety last year, told Reuters he expected the case to be dismissed.

They have filed the petition on flimsy grounds. They haven't attempted to counter her release on constitutional grounds," said Malook, who returned to Pakistan this week and will represent Bibi in court.

"God willing, she will have the decision in her favor tomorrow. She will be a free person to go anywhere she wants to."

Bibi is widely expected to seek asylum abroad due to safety concerns, with Canada among the favorites to accept her. In November, Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau said his country was in talks with Pakistan about helping Bibi.

Bibi, a farm worker, was condemned in 2010 over allegations that she made derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors working in the fields with her objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. She has always denied committing blasphemy

Bibi's case has outraged Christians worldwide and reignited a debate about Pakistan's draconian blasphemy law, which critics say is often abused and unfairly targets ethnic minorities.

"No one should be able to intimidate the Supreme Court into reversing a long-overdue ruling. Asia Bibi has been found to be innocent," said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director for Amnesty International.

"She should now finally be free to be reunited with her family and leave the country if she chooses."

 

 

28 January 19

 

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India's River Diversion Plan and South Asia's Waters

More dams are to come, as India’s need to power its economy means it is quietly spending billions on hydropower in Kashmir. The Senate report totted up 33 hydro projects in the border area with Pakistan. The state’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah, says dams will add an extra 3,000MW to the grid in the next eight years alone. Some analysts in Srinagar talk of over 60 dam projects, large and small, now on the books. (This special report has appeared in the Bulletin on Current Affairs - February 2012, you may have to Buy the print edition to read full story)

More in the Edition:

South Asia's Water - a growing rivalry

Indian, Pakistani & Chinese Border Disputes

India's River Diversion Plan: Its impact on Bangladesh

Water Crisis can Trigger nuclear war in South Asia

Reclaimed Water - the Western Experience

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