By: Rana Tanveer
LAHORE: The hearing of Aasia Bibi’s appeal could not take place on Monday even though it was fixed before a special division bench of the Lahore High Court at a previous hearing, The Express Tribune has learnt.
On March 26, the bench had adjourned the hearing for April 14 due to unavailability of the counsel for the complainant.
However, on Monday, the bench itself was unavailable.
A court official told The Express Tribune that the bench was working in Rawalapindi due to changes in roster of judges which was issued by the chief justice weekly.
Nadeem Anthony, one of the lawyers representing Bibi, told The Express Tribune that her counsel had reached in court. He said they were shocked to find out that the case was not being heard.
He said he had confirmed from the registrar’s office that all other cases fixed before the bench had been assigned to another bench but Bibi’s case was not fixed due to some “legal hitches.”
He said this was the first time in his career that a case fixed by the court had not been heard due to unavailability of the bench.
Advocate Yasin Badar, a member of Free Legal Aid and Settlement which is also defending Aasia Bibi, told The Express Tribune that as the case was of a sensitive nature, the court wanted to deal with it with care.
He said Aasia Bibi’s case was strong and there was a good chance of her acquittal or a lesser punishment.
Aashiq Masih, husband of Aasia, too, was at the court to attend the proceedings. The counsel for the CLAAS, an NGO, was also present on the occasion. Masih told The Express Tribune the CLAAS was trying to associate itself with his wife’s defence despite his refusal to authorise them.
He said he had refused head of CLAAS, Francis Joseph, the letter of attorney but he had still sent his counsel to given the impression to the media that he was pursuing this case. Bibi, who has been in jail since June 2009, was sentenced to death and fined Rs100,000 by a Nankana Sahib additional district and sessions judge on November 8, 2011, under Section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code on charges of blasphemy.