Meanwhile, Muslims extremists are pressing for Ms. Bibi, and a Christian teenager, to be immediately hanged for their alleged blasphemy
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS – October 24, 2016) — The Supreme Court of Pakistan Judge, Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, who dropped a bombshell during a hearing on Thursday, October 13, 2016, by the country’s top court, when he suddenly withdrew from the final death sentence appeal of Christian mother, Asia Bibi, has now sent further shockwaves through the country by resigning.
The Judge did so in a handwritten letter addressed to Mamnoon Hussain, the President of Pakistan, without stating any specific reasons for his resignation.
Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman had been appointed as a member of the three judges Bench formed by Anwar Zaheer Jamali, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, to hear Asia Bibi’s final appeal against her death sentence for alleged blasphemy, but then caused uproar amongst human rights groups around the world, by abruptly announcing his withdrawal from the case.
He told the court, “I was a member of the Bench hearing the case of Salman Taseer [the then Governor of Punjab who was murdered for his support of Asia Bibi] and this case is related to that.” He then withdrew and the hearing was adjourned indefinitely.
Now a new judge will have to be appointed to replace him, and there is no indication that this will take place soon.
Saif-ul-Mulook, the lawyer representing Asia Bibi, objected to the adjournment, but his protest was overruled and during hearing, which lasted all of two-minutes, the remaining Bench members refused to hear his objection.
“I was very well prepared and hopeful for the decision, but the case is adjourned and no new date is fixed for the hearing,” he told The Telegraph in the UK.
Ms. Bibi was not in court for security reasons, but her husband, Ashiq Masih, was, and left in obvious distress after the postponement.
The Pakistan Christian Post (PCP) — http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com — said that the resignation of Iqbal Hameedur Rehman took place yesteray (Sunday, October 23, 2016), when he sent his letter to the President.
“The Registrar of Supreme Court of Pakistan announces different Benches of the Supreme Court of Pakistan [SCP] on approval of Chief Justice one week prior to [the] hearing of pending cases as normal rules and procedures of the SCP,” said the PCP.
The PCP story stated that it was “surprising” that Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, who was “aware” that he was member of the Bench who would hear the Asia Bibi case, did not “step up to inform the Chief Justice that he may be not included in Asia Bibi’s appeal hearing,” but instead waited for the day of the hearing to “not hear her appeal,” which it said, “forced a postponement until a new Bench is constituted.”
It added that some sections of the Pakistan press have alleged that the Judge had resigned “after allegations of 74 illegal appointments in the Islamabad High Court and [a] petition was filed against him.”
Calls for lynching of Asia Bibi and another blasphemy law victim
Meanwhile, turmoil continues to swirl in Pakistan as Muslim extremists are now calling for the lynching of both Asia Bibi, and a 16-year-old youth, Nabeel Masih, who is also charged with alleged blasphemy.
Sunni Muslim groups have coordinated mass demonstrations across Pakistan, chanting slogans and displaying signs calling for Asia Bibi to be hanged. Hundreds of members and supporters of Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah have been gathering in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore to declare their hatred for Ms. Bibi, whose only crime was to stand up for Jesus Christ in an argument with some Muslim berry pickers, with whom she had been working.
“It will be a war if accursed Asia escapes,” Mukhtar, one of many protesters in Lahore supporting the hanging of the Christian mother, told AsiaNews. “Was Pakistan formed to hang the lovers and spare blasphemers. Why is Asia Bibi not hanged even after the death sentence by Lahore High Court and Supreme Court,” he asked, warning “the government will pay if it acts on foreign agenda and betrays us.”
The teenager, Nabeel Masih, faced a howling of a mob of more than 80 Muslims seeking his death, while he was in the Lahore High Court awaiting his sentence for charges of blasphemy. Nabeel’s “crime” was to post a Facebook image that is said to be “derogatory to Muslims” on a friend’s Facebook page. A judge had announced that the young teenager could face the death sentence, which the British Pakistani Christian Association said was “a harsh penalty.”
A spokesperson for the London-based group said, “Ostensibly, the alleged blasphemy crime charged to Nabeel Masih, breaches section 295 and 295A of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Which should hold a maximum sentence of 10 years.”
Masih was accused of committing blasphemy by allegedly “liking” and sharing a post on Facebook which “defamed and disrespected” the Kaaba in Mecca, the building at the centre of Islam’s most sacred mosque.
Wilson Chowdhry, the founder of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) — http://www.britishpakistanichristians.co.uk/ — said any changes to the blasphemy law in Pakistan would have little effect because of “local police authorities cowing under pressure from mobs led by local imams.”
He added that at least 150 Christians, 564 Muslims, 459 Ahmadis and 21 Hindus have been jailed under blasphemy charges since 1986. Chowdhry said that prior to 1986, only 14 cases pertaining to blasphemy were reported.
Photo captions: Asia Bibi with two of her daughters before her arrest. (The Nation). Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, the Judge who has resigned. 3) Muslim extremists calling for Asia Bibi to be hanged. 4) Ashiq Masih, husband of Asia Bibi, along with his daughters Sidra, second left, and Esham, left, speak to Pakistani Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, right. He was also later murdered. (AFP/Getty Images). 5) Dan Wooding with his BPCA award for his long-standing reporting on the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is the author of some 45 books, and has been a full-time journalist since 1968. While still based in London, Dan Wooding was a senior reporter for two of Great Britain’s largest-circulation newspapers, and was an interviewer for BBC Radio One and for LBC, the capital city’s main commercial talk station. Dan now has a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California. He has been given a special award by the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) for his long-standing reporting on the persecution of Christians in Pakistani.
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