ASIA/PAKISTAN - The Supreme Court judge, who refused to hear Asia Bibi’s death penalty appeal, resigns

Wednesday, 26 October 2016 asia bibi   blasphemy   islam   persecutions   religious minorities  

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - The Supreme Court of Pakistan Judge, Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, who on October 13, 2016, suddenly withdrew from the final death sentence appeal of Asia Bibi, causing a postponement of the hearing, has officially resigned. As Fides learns, the Judge did so in a handwritten letter addressed to Mamnoon Hussain, the President of Pakistan, without stating any specific reasons for his resignation. Iqbal Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman had been appointed as a member of the three judges Bench to hear Asia Bibi's final appeal against her death sentence for alleged blasphemy.
The judge justified his resignation claiming he was a member of the Bench hearing the case of Salman Taseer, the then Governor of Punjab who was murdered by his bodyguard for his support of Asia Bibi.
When a judge resigns, the President of the Supreme Court has to appoint a new judge to replace him, and there is no indication that this will take place soon. "We are confident and expect the President to entrust Asia Bibi’s case to an entirely new Bench" commented Joseph Nadeem to Fides, Asia Bibi’s family guardian and present at the hearing on 13 October.
"What surprised us was the lack of timeliness: judge Rehman should have withdrawn days before, so that the case could have been assigned directly to another Bench", he remarked. With his unexpected move, however, the court forced a postponement.
In recent days, groups of radical activists have staged demonstrations in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore demanding capital punishment for Asia Bibi and threatening the Pakistani institutions of "unleashing a war" if Asia Bibi is freed. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 26/10/2016)