Lawyer confident Aasia Bibi will walk free soon

The judgment is fully in line with the law and constitution of the country, says Saiful Mulook. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2018

Lawyer confident Aasia Bibi will walk free soon

  • While unlawful, it's wrong to term deal between government and protestors as a "surrender", Mulook says
  • Christian woman's husband appeals to US, UK and Canada to help family exit Pakistan

KARACHI/LONDON: Reasoning that a petition to review a Supreme Court verdict, in the case of a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy, would have no impact on the judgement taken last week, Aasia Bibi's lawyer said on Monday that he expected her to be freed soon.

Saiful Mulook added that this is because Bibi, 51, has already been declared innocent by Pakistan’s top court.

“It is not a rehearing of the case where evidence will be presented again. The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has to show from the judgement what they think is incorrect," Mulook told Arab News on phone, after addressing a press conference in Netherlands, on Monday.

He added that in any review petition, there are five percent chances of the verdict being in favor of the petitioner. However, in Bibi's case, there are zero percent chances that the judgment may be reversed.

To explain his point, the counsel maintained that in review petitions, it is the judgment which is reviewed and not the evidence. “The judges have already written upto five pages each discussing every evidence in this landmark judgment,” he told Arab News.

“The judgment is fully in line with the law and constitution of the country, but the clerics and extreme factions caused such extreme violence that it brought the country to a standstill,” he said.

Mulook added that the Lahore High Court (LHC) has set aside the admission. However, since the judgment was in favor of the plaintiff, he didn’t challenge the admission so there's nothing in the case which would deter Bibi from being acquitted.

With the reactionary protests that followed in the aftermath of the verdict, Mulook said he was summoned by representatives from the United Nations and the European Union, in Islamabad, who feared for his safety and urged him to leave the country, despite his repeated requests to let him complete the proceedings of the case.

“I wanted to complete the process of release by my own and wanted to stay in the country but I was told if I didn’t leave, I would be killed,” he told.

"They kept me in a room for three days and then put me on a plane to send me out of the country,” he told. “I didn’t leave the country with my will.”

Mulook explained that it takes time to release an individual after he or she has been acquitted by the Supreme Court.

"The verdict needs to be sent to the Lahore High Court by post, which is required to send it using the same mode to the sessions judge in Nankana, the judge who has issued the death warrants,” Mulook said, adding that had he been in Pakistan, he "would have accelerated the process".

Criticizing the government for striking a deal with the protesting party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Mulook said: “The deal is unlawful. Legally, the government cannot sign such deals. However, it cannot be called surrender as governments across the world sign such deals with protestors.”

“There are no legal bindings on the government to fulfill the points of the deal written on white paper,” he added.

Discussing the outcome of the protests, Mulook made it clear that the manner in which the rioters were dispersed does not jeorpadise Bibi’s verdict at all. “It is not possible for the demands of the TLP to be acquiesced," he said, adding that the agreement “is all for saving the face of the clerics and their followers”.

In the past, he said, Pakistan has lost the lives of many civilians due to certain radical elements of society, so it was a quick decision on part of the government to disperse the crowds.

He concluded by saying that the government cannot place Bibi on the country's Exit Control List -- which was one of the points agreed upon in the five-part deal.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court said it found Bibi not guilty, citing a lack of evidence in her case. The decision, however, prompted countrywide protests by the TLP, a far-right Islamist group. The protests, which had also turned violent in some areas, compelled the government to strike a deal with the protestors.

Meanwhile, Ashiq Masih, Bibi's husband has appealed to the United States, United Kingdom and Canada to help them exit Pakistan.

According to the British media, Masih, in a video message appealed to US President Donald Trump for help.

OIC countries seek to be dependent on their own halal vaccines

Updated 50 min 37 sec ago

OIC countries seek to be dependent on their own halal vaccines

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata, JAKARTA: Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are forging a way to become self-reliant on vaccines and medicines to the Islamic nations as representatives of their respective heads of national medicine regulatory authorities are meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the first time.
Penny Lukito, chairwoman of Indonesia’s National Agency of Drug and Food Control, said the first-ever meeting, which was called by Indonesia and kicked off on Wednesday, was timely since the dire health situation due to the lack of access to medicines and vaccines in some Islamic countries is worrying, especially in the least developing ones and those mired in conflicts.
“The capacity and ability of pharmaceutical industries in the Islamic world to produce essential medicines and vaccines are still at low proportions,” Lukito said in her opening speech. “We can’t let this situation continue unabated.”
This meeting, therefore, serves as a platform to identify gaps and opportunities for improving medicines' regulatory capacity, promoting public health and how to advance the pharmaceutical industry in OIC countries, said OIC Assistant Secretary-General for Science and Technology, Muhammad Naeem Khan.
“Overdependence on imported medicine and vaccines has had an adverse impact on the provision of health care in some OIC countries, including the refusal by some communities to use such medicines and vaccines,” Khan said in his opening remarks.
“It has also made many member states vulnerable to counterfeit and substandard medicines,” he added.
President of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority Hisham Saad Aljadhey said the outcome of this meeting will be very fruitful for individuals living in OIC countries in terms of availability and safety of medication.
“We have issues such as high prices of medication and building capacity," Aljadhey told Arab News on the sidelines of the two-day meeting. "We need to build a medicine regulatory agency within OIC countries which will focus on guidelines in accordance with the international ones and include good manufacturing practices for medication, review of scientific evidence, and to follow up on the safety of the product.”
Of the 57 OIC member states, only seven are vaccine producers and only a few produce export-quality medicines, while many countries, including the least developed ones -– many of whom are OIC member states -– still have to rely heavily on imported vaccines and medicines.
Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Osama bin Mohammed Al-Shuaibi said Islamic countries need to collaborate on vaccine products because there are halal and non-halal vaccines, and vaccines would have to be approved by the ulema council.
However, he said Islam is very open and even if the medicine is not halal, people should take it to prevent death or illness to themselves and others.
“You can’t say this is not halal and your child is dead. This meeting will build more trust between Islamic countries to start producing their own medicines which are halal, if there is only a non-halal one. We try to find something halal, but if there is not, we have to have the medicine, whatever it is,” he told Arab News.
Febrian Ruddyard, the director general for multilateral cooperation at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, said the meeting would produce a joint statement dubbed the Jakarta Declaration, which reaffirms the OIC countries’ commitment to strengthen the regulatory framework on medicines and vaccines.
“Health problems could disperse and cause other problems if we don’t regulate them. We can’t be healthy on our own. We have to stay healthy together,” he said.