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Fearing for life, Asia Bibi’s lawyer flees Pakistan; requests govt to protect family

Her lawyer Saiful Malook claimed that he was facing life threats from sections of lawyers and it was difficult for him to practice in the prevailing situation, the Express Tribune reported.

The lawyer of Asia Bibi fled Pakistan early Saturday after fearing for his life amid countrywide protests by hundreds of radical Islamist hardliners against the acquittal of the Christian woman who was sentenced to death for committing blasphemy, media reports said.

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

Her lawyer Saiful Malook claimed that he was facing life threats from sections of lawyers and it was difficult for him to practice in the prevailing situation, the Express Tribune reported.

He, however, clarified that he would return to Pakistan to represent his client at the hearing of the review petition if the army provided him security.

“My family is also facing immense security threats and the federal government should provide security to them,” Mr. Malook said.

It was not immediately known as to which place he was headed for in his bid to evade life threats and how long would he stay there.

Meanwhile, the complainant in the case, Qari Muhammad Saalam, has requested the Supreme Court for the early hearing of a review petition against its October 31 order acquitting Bibi, who was booked for blasphemy in 2009.

Saalam said Bibi is planning to leave the country and an application has already been filed to place her name on the Exit Control List (ECL).

In case this review petition is not fixed, he said, the application/petition shall suffer an irreparable loss and injury.

It is learnt that the review petition, which was filed in the Supreme Court Lahore registry, has been transferred to the Islamabad registry where all judges are sitting. A number has also been allotted to the review petition.

The legal team of the petitioner expects that the review petition may be fixed for the next week. However, review petitions are rarely heard on a priority basis.

Several “lacunas and factual legal contradictions” have been raised in the review petition filed through Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry and Azhar Siddique.

Highlighting the “inordinate delay, defective investigation and other technicalities” in the review petition, the petitioner has asked whether these should be made hurdles in dispensation of justice.

The petitioner has asked whether the country’s top court had jurisdiction to overrule a peculiar fact like the confessional statement of Bibi.

He asked whether the apex court met the standards of jurisprudence set in this regard in view of the history as well as Islamic provisions and normal principle of justice with reference to application in blasphemy laws.

The apex court’s judgement, which was pronounced last Wednesday, triggered protests across Pakistan with protestors led by Islamic political party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan and other groups blocking major highways and roads in different parts of the country.

Educational institutions were closed in many parts of the country. Many universities across Pakistan announced cancellation of papers due to the ongoing tense situation.

The mobile phone and internet services also remained suspended in major cities.

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