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Asia Bibi's Lawyer to Return to Pakistan For Supreme Court Hearing On Blasphemy Case: Report

Saiful Malook went to the Netherlands last year due to "security concerns" when violence broke out soon after Bibi's acquittal.


Updated:January 26, 2019, 11:41 PM IST
Asia Bibi's Lawyer to Return to Pakistan For Supreme Court Hearing On Blasphemy Case: Report
File photo of Asia Bibi's lawyer Saiful Malook (Credit: AP)

Islamabad: The self-exiled lawyer of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian acquitted of blasphemy, has decided to return to the country as the Supreme Court is set to decide on January 29 whether to allow an appeal against her acquittal.

Saiful Malook went to the Netherlands last year due to "security concerns" when violence broke out soon after Bibi's acquittal.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Malook said he would return to attend the January 29 court hearing on the review petition against his client.

The paper reported that the lawyer, however, requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure his security in Islamabad. According to sources, Malook has decided to return to Pakistan permanently.

Bibi, a 47-year-old mother of four, who is now in protective custody, was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting Islam in a row with her neighbours. She has always maintained her innocence, but spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.

She challenged the verdict in October 2014 in the Lahore high court which upheld the death sentence. The apex court's decision to acquit her had sparked three-day-long mass protests led by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

The protests were called off after the religio-political party reached an agreement with the government, the foremost condition of which was the placement of Bibi's name on the Exit Control List.

The government, however, had only agreed to "initiate the legal process" to place her name on the list, while also agreeing that it would not oppose any review petitions being filed against the court judgement.

After her release from Multan's women prison on November 7, Bibi was flown to Islamabad onboard a special aircraft. She was then taken to an undisclosed place amid tight security.

Authorities have remained tightlipped about her movement and whereabouts for security reasons.

Her case has been deeply divisive in Pakistan where there is a strong support for the controversial blasphemy laws.

The blasphemy laws were promulgated by former military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1980s. A person convicted under these laws is given death sentence.

Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy in 2009. She was convicted in 2010 by the trial court and her death sentence was maintained by the Lahore high court in 2014.

Her case gained prominence when former governor of Pakistan's Punjab province Salman Taseer was killed in 2011 for supporting her and criticising the blasphemy laws.

A month after Taseer was killed, Pakistan's religious minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian who spoke out against the blasphemy law, was shot dead in Islamabad. PTI

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